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Governor’s Succession Amendment

The West Virginia Constitution of 1863 provided for the popular election of the state’s governor, a provision that had been incorporated into the Virginia Constitution of 1851. The term of office was set at two years, with a provision that the governor might be elected for one or more successive terms. The Constitution of 1872, which remains in effect, set the term of office at four years, but prohibited a governor from succeeding himself. Arthur I. Boreman, the state’s first governor, was elected to three consecutive two-year terms under the state’s first constitution, and John J. Jacob, the fourth governor, was elected to a two-year term under the first constitution and a four-year term under the second. Then for more than 100 years no governor was elected to more than one term. The question of gubernatorial succession was from time to time a matter of discussion.

In 1970, during the first term of Governor Arch Moore, citizens of the state ratified an amendment to the constitution that allows the governor to serve two consecutive terms. The Governor’s Succession Amendment introduced a two-term pattern that prevailed for more than a quarter-century. Governors Moore, Rockefeller, Caperton and Manchin each succeeded themselves, and Moore won a third term following Rockefeller’s intervening terms. Cecil Underwood, who was governor from 1957 to 1961, was again elected to the office in 1996 and became both the youngest and oldest of the state’s governors at the times of his election. Underwood failed to be elected to a third term in 2000.

Written by Otis K. Rice