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R. D. Bailey

Judge Robert Darius ‘‘R. D.’’ Bailey (July 6, 1883-October 24, 1961) was born at Baileysville, Wyoming County. He served as Wyoming County prosecuting attorney, as Democrat state chairman, as a state senator, and ran in 1928 and 1948 for West Virginia governor but lost in the primary. R. D. Bailey was judge of Mingo County circuit court from 1921 to 1928.

Bailey came into wide prominence as the judge of the Matewan Massacre trial in 1921, and during the later trial and conviction of Levi Lane and Clyde Beale for the murder of Rissie Purdue. In the latter case, the jury failed to recommend mercy, and a death sentence by hanging was mandatory. While Beale’s appeal was pending at the state Supreme Court, Judge Bailey learned that Beale had been convicted on perjured testimony. Convinced that a miscarriage of justice had taken place in his court and despite orders from the Supreme Court, Bailey refused in 1927 and 1928 to set a date for Beale’s hanging. The sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment, and in 1949 Beale was pardoned by Governor Patteson.

Bailey was the grandson of James Bailey, the founder of Baileysville. At the age of 18, R. D. Bailey became a deputy for Sheriff John Ball. He graduated from Valparaiso University in Indiana in 1909 and started his law practice in Baileysville, where he remained until 1920 when he was elected circuit judge. In 1922, he moved to Pineville and remained there the rest of his life. Bailey returned to the practice of law after his service as circuit judge. The R. D. Bailey Lake is named in his honor.

Written by Robert Beanblossom


  1. Mighty Oak has Fallen, Judge Bailey Funeral Rites Held Thursday. Pineville Independent Herald, October 27, 1961.

  2. Bob Miller. Brush with Death. Charleston Gazette, March 12, 1995.

  3. R. D. Bailey, Former Mingo Judge Dies. Williamson Daily News, October 25, 1961.