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Virginia Mae Brown


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Attorney Virginia Mae Brown (1923-1991) of Pliny, Putnam County, was the first woman to serve on the Interstate Commerce Commission. She was appointed by President Lyndon Johnson in March 1964. In 1969, when she was named chairman of the ICC, Brown became the first woman to head an independent administrative agency of the federal government.

Before her service on the ICC, Brown had pioneered women’s leadership in government in West Virginia. Upon graduation from the West Virginia University College of Law in 1947, she was appointed law clerk to Attorney General Ira Partlow. In 1949, she became executive secretary of the West Virginia Judicial Council, and in 1952 she was named West Virginia’s first woman assistant attorney general. She later served as counsel to Governor William Wallace Barron.

In May 1961, Brown was named West Virginia’s insurance commissioner, the first woman to hold the post in any state. In 1962, she became the first woman to be appointed to the West Virginia Public Service Commission. Brown resigned this post when she was appointed to the Interstate Commerce Commission.

Dubbed the “First Lady of Transportation” by a trade magazine, Brown served on the ICC until 1979. After stepping down from the commission, she became president and chairwoman of the board of the Buffalo Bank in Eleanor, back home in Putnam County. She later became chief administrative law judge for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services office of hearing appeals in Charleston.

Brown, whose maiden name was the same as her married name, was born November 13, 1923, at Pliny. Her nickname was “Peaches.” She married James Vernon Brown, a Charleston lawyer, in 1955. They had two daughters: Victoria Ann and Pamela Kay. The couple later divorced. Virginia Mae Brown died of a heart attack at her home in Charleston on February 15, 1991. She was 67 years old.

Listen to a telephone call between President Johnson and Senator Robert Byrd discussing the appointment of Virginia Mae Brown, March 3, 1964.

Written by Sheila McEntee

Sources

  1. Ernst, Harry. 'First Lady of Transportation': What's Next for Virginia Mae?. Charleston Sunday Gazette-Mail, May 29, 1966.

  2. Cook, Joan. Virginia Mae Brown Dies at 67; First Woman to Head the I.C.C. New York Times, February 27, 1991.