Statesman George William Summers (March 4, 1804-September 19, 1868) was born in Fairfax County, Virginia. The Summers family moved to Walnut Grove in present Putnam County in 1814. Following the death of his father in 1818, George went to Charleston to live with his oldest brother, Judge Lewis Summers. He attended Washington College (now Washington and Lee University), and graduated from Ohio University in 1826. Returning home, he studied law under brother Lewis and was admitted to the bar in 1827. He served three consecutive terms in the Virginia General Assembly, beginning in 1830. From 1841 to 1845 he served in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Summers was a member of the 1850–51 Constitutional Convention, where he and other westerners helped to secure reforms favoring Western Virginia. He was the candidate of the Whig Party in 1851 in the race to become the first popularly elected governor of Virginia. He was defeated by Democrat Joseph Johnson of Harrison County, most likely because Summers was perceived as an abolitionist.
In 1852, Summers was elected circuit judge of Kanawha County, an office he held for six years, resigning two years before the end of his term. He was elected by the General Assembly of Virginia as a member of the Peace Conference that assembled in Washington on February 4, 1861, to try to avert the Civil War. He was then elected a member of the Richmond secession convention of 1861, where he was recognized for his oratory skills. He opposed and voted against the Ordinance of Secession, then resigned his seat in the convention and returned home to retire from public life.
Summers married Amacetta Laidley, daughter of John Laidley of Cabell County, in February 1833. In 1857, the couple purchased from James Madison Laidley the Glenwood estate on Charleston’s West Side. This brown brick edifice of vernacular Greek Revival style, now on the National Register of Historic Places, remains a local landmark. It was here that Judge Summers died. In 1871, Summers County was named in his honor.
This Article was written by Gerald S. Ratliff
Last Revised on December 08, 2015
Biographical Sketch of Judge George W. Summers. History of Kanawha County. Charleston: West Virginia Journal, 1876.
Biographical Sketch of Judge George W. Summers. History of Charleston and Kanawha County. Chicago: Richmond-Arnold Pub., 1911.
Ryon, Ann Isabell. The Summers Family. Historical Magazine, (July 1903).
Cite This Article
Ratliff, Gerald S. "George William Summers." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 08 December 2015. Web. 28 April 2017.