Matthew Reese (August 9, 1927-December 1, 1998) was recognized as a pioneer in the field of political consulting. Reese was born in Huntington and graduated from Marshall University in 1950. His first foray into politics came when he helped with the congressional campaign of his former political science professor, Maurice “Bernie” Burnside. Reese worked as his staff assistant in Washington, but he returned to West Virginia when Burnside lost two years later.
Reese was selling insurance in 1959 when he was asked to become part of John F. Kennedy’s primary campaign in West Virginia. From the basement of the Kanawha Hotel in Charleston, Reese helped organize all 55 counties and recruited thousands of campaign volunteers. He worked with Kennedy’s brothers, Ted and Robert, and toured with the candidate throughout the state. During one campaign stop, Reese gave a speech for Kennedy when the candidate lost his voice.
Reese’s participation in that notable campaign propelled him to national prominence. In 1961, Reese joined the Democratic National Committee as deputy chairman, and in 1964, he directed get-out-the-vote efforts for Lyndon Johnson. In 1966, he formed his own political consulting business in Washington, D.C., and worked with such Democratic candidates as Tip O’Neil, John Glenn, Jay Rockefeller and Nick Joe Rahall. He knew every Democratic president from Harry Truman through Bill Clinton.
Throughout his career, Reese worked on more than 450 campaigns. He was known for his approach to identifying and targeting the voters who were likely to support a candidate. After selling his company in 1986, Reese taught at Harvard and George Washington University. In 1995, he received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from Marshall. The university has an endowed scholarship in his name in the political science department. He was inducted into the Marshall Business Hall of Fame in 1997.
Reese was married to the former Martha Sedinger, and they had three children. He died in McLean, Virginia.
Last Revised on May 24, 2011