A. James Manchin, one of West Virginia’s most colorful politicians of the last century, died today of a heart attack. Manchin had a checkered past, and his first big splash in politics was as one of the organizers of JFK’s 1960 Presidential campaign (and we know the shenanigans that happened in WV during that election cycle made Florida seem like nothing). He was also Secretary of State from 1976-1984, and later, as Treasury Secretary, he was forced to resign when $230 million came up missing. Here was his unapologetic statement before resigning when he was facing impeachment:
I have prepared this letter for his excellency, the Governor of West Virginia, which reads as follows: Dear Governor Caperton, the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course and I have kept the faith. Accordingly, I will enter into retirement on my last day of service as treasurer of the state of West Virginia at 5 o’clock p.m. on July 9, 1989. I will seek the strength and guidance of Almighty God as I prepare to embark upon a new journey and to open new doors of public service which will enable me to continue loving and serving the people of this state until they lay me away on top of the hill at my beloved Farmington. May the bright morning star be a lamp unto our feet and being with sentiments and respect, I’m your public servant, A. James Manchin
He was a really colorful guy, as I have stated, and is probably best known and best loved for his role in REAP (Rehabilitation Environmental Action Program), a program in the 1970’s to get rid of the junked cars and appliances that littered the state. He was shown on the top of a beautiful WV mountain which was trashed with old junkers, and the caption on this poster stated:
“We Must Purge These Proud Peaks of Their Jumbled Jungles of Junkery.”
Charleston Gazette story lists a bunch of Manchin’s antics:
– Hechler recalled the time Manchin was accompanied by 12 trumpeters ? for a sewage treatment plant dedication ceremony.
?He made that sewage plant seem like the biggest thing in the world,? Hechler said.
– Former Gov. Arch A. Moore Jr. recalled a similar instance when a young Manchin spoke at a groundbreaking.
?He pulled a pistol out of his pocket, fired into the air, and proclaimed, ?Let the bulldozers roll!?? Moore recalled.
– It was Moore who gave Manchin the job that put him in the national spotlight and solidified his state reputation as a colorful orator.
?I said, ?Can you spell ?environmental??? Moore said of his interview of Manchin for the REAP position. ?He said, ?Do I have to do it right now???
This Charleston Daily Mail story shows what Manchin was best at- constituent work.
This Wheeling Intelligencer report describes the man:
“I enjoy people and I always have. I enjoy being where the power is, to do something,” he said following his 1998 victory.
The flamboyant, rotund politician sported a fedora and was a mix of contrasts and ironies.
He was a pro-union Democrat who boasted of his birth in a United Mine Workers barracks – “one step below a log cabin” – and also wore a black lapel ribbon to protest legalized abortion.
He was an impeached state official who taught civics classes to students in Greenbrier, Webster, Wetzel and Wood counties.
Like I said, this was an old time politician, and EVERYONE met him. My whole family had met him, and it seemed like he had met every person in the state once.