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Harley O. Staggers Sr.


Congressman Harley Orrin Staggers Sr. (August 3, 1907-August 20, 1991) served in the U.S. House of Representatives for 32 years. He represented the Second District, which at the time stretched from Monongalia County to Monroe County and included the Eastern Panhandle, making it the largest congressional district east of the Mississippi River.

Staggers was born in Keyser. As a boy, he worked for a Keyser sawmill and for the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. After his graduation from Virginia’s Emory & Henry College in 1931, he tried several professions, including farmer, teacher, and football coach. He was elected Mineral County sheriff in 1937. After his term, he entered the navy, ending World War II as a lieutenant commander. He was elected to Congress on his first attempt in 1948, defeating the incumbent Republican, Melvin Snyder of Kingwood.

Staggers was a staunch supporter of Presidents Kennedy and Johnson in the 1960s and became chairman of the powerful House Interstate and Foreign Commerce Committee in 1966. In his final term, he sponsored the 1980 Staggers Rail Act, which effectively deregulated the nation’s railroad industry. Proponents of the act say it strengthened the industry and credit it with the strong resurgence of railroading in the years that followed; detractors say the act has led to consolidation and given rail users fewer choices.

Staggers retired from Congress in 1980; after a two-year gap, his son, Harley Staggers Jr., was elected to the seat. The younger Staggers held the seat until redistricting carved up the district in 1992.

Harley O. Staggers Sr. is buried in his native Mineral County.

Written by Greg Moore


  1. Anson, Cherrill A. Harley O. Staggers. Washington: Grossman Pub., 1972.

  2. Ex-Congressman Staggers Dies at 84. Charleston Gazette, 8/21/1991.

  3. West Virginia Blue Book. State of West Virginia. Charleston, 1980.