Appalachian Homecoming

  • Share
  • Read Later
CHARLESTON, West Virginia: It isn't unusual for a governor to win a second term in office, but West Virginia Governor-elect Cecil Underwood took an awful long time to do it. Under an old West Virginia law, Underwood could not run for a second term at the end of his first. That was in 1961. Three times since then, he has tried to regain his seat; three times he failed. His patience paid off Tuesday on his 74th birthday as the Republican won the sentimental votes of thousands of Democrats to edge state senator Charlotte Pritt, an honest-to-goodness coal miner's daughter. When inaugurated next year, Underwood will hold the distinction of becoming both the youngest and oldest governors in state history. As he began his first term in 1956, he was a fresh-faced 34-year-old forced to deal with terrible unemployment caused by mechanization of the coal mines. The state lost more than 20,000 mining jobs during Underwood's first term; he now hopes to use technology to improve the state government's efficiency and to diversify the economy. In this year's race, the grandfather of five peppered roadsides with campaign signs that played on West Virginian sentimentality, reading simply "Governor Cecil Underwood," while working to make an asset of his age: "Obviously," he quipped during the campaign, "I wouldn't be using it as a stepping stone to another job."