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Howard Sutherland


Senator Howard Sutherland (September 8, 1865-March 12, 1950) was born in St. Louis County, Missouri. He became the first U.S. senator from West Virginia to win election following adoption of the 17th Amendment. The amendment, adopted in 1913, required election of senators by a vote of the people rather than by state legislators as had previously been done.

Sutherland graduated from Westminster College at Fulton, Missouri, and edited a newspaper in the same town until 1890, when he moved to Washington as an official in the Census Bureau and a political ally of West Virginia Sen. Stephen B. Elkins. Elkins, who had spent much of his young life in Missouri, brought Sutherland to West Virginia, where he joined the business empire of Elkins and Henry Gassaway Davis. Sutherland remained in the town of Elkins until 1912 when he was elected to Congress after serving a single term (1909–13) as a Republican in the state senate. He was reelected to Congress two years later, then successfully contested the U.S. Senate seat of William E. Chilton in November 1916. Although Chilton afterward challenged his election, Sutherland was seated for the full term ending in 1923.

Four years before West Virginia native John W. Davis won the Democratic nomination for president in 1924, Sutherland made a bid for the presidency in 1920. At the Republican National Convention in Chicago he received the entire vote of the West Virginia delegation and one vote from Missouri. Prior to the convention Sutherland had purchased an airplane to advertise his candidacy, giving many West Virginians their first glimpse of an airplane. The Republicans gave the presidential nomination to Ohio Sen. Warren G. Harding, and Sutherland served out the remainder of his Senate term before he was ousted by Matthew M. Neely in the election of 1922.

Sutherland returned to business in Elkins and later lived in Washington. He is buried in the Maplewood Cemetery, Elkins.

Written by Paul D. Casdorph


  1. Biographical Directory of the American Congress, 1774-1961. Washington: United States Government Printing Office, 1961.

  2. Casdorph, P. D. Howard Sutherland's 1920 Bid for the Presidency. West Virginia History, (Oct. 1973).