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Rush Dew Holt (1905-1955) Papers

 Collection
Collection Number: A&M.0873

Scope and Contents

Papers of Rush Dew Holt, Sr. (1905-1955) relating to his personal and political activities. Types of material include publications, clippings, correspondence, photographs, and ephemera, among others. The collection is divided into six series: Personal and Political Papers (1840-2000 and undated) includes correspondence; invitations and cards; material representing campaign activities; and material from college courses, among other material that represents Rush Holt’s personal life and political career; and ephemera collected by Rush Holt. Artifacts (1939-1952 and undated) includes personal and political items collected by Rush Holt. Legislative Records (1920-1955 and undated) includes correspondence, reports, publications, clippings, statistics, transcripts, financial records, and project records, among other miscellaneous material relative to Rush Holt’s committee-based and general legislative activity. Constituent Services (1923-1954 and undated) includes mail received by Rush Holt during his time in the West Virginia House of Delegates and the United States Senate from constituents providing political opinions to Holt or requesting government publications and bulletins, copies of speeches, educational material, and Rush Holt’s recommendation to the United States Military or Naval Academy. Press and Media Activity (1925-2003 and undated) includes original and photocopied articles from newspapers and similar publications, typescripts of press releases, pen-and-ink drawn political cartoons, transcripts of speeches, and sound recordings, among other material representing Rush Holt’s involvement with the press and media. Administrative Files (1937-1940) includes material documenting the daily office activities of Rush Holt and his staff during the former’s senatorial term.

The collection is divided into six series as follows:

Series 1. Personal and Political Papers; 1840-2000 and undated (bulk 1918-1955)

Includes material related to Rush Holt's personal, family, and political life. Additional material related to his work in politics can be found in Series 3 through 6. Types of material include correspondence; invitations and cards; material representing campaign activities; material from college courses; bills for recordings, radio station receipts, and election expenditures; typescripts, newsletters, manuscripts, and photocopies of material written by Rush Holt; publications to which Rush Holt subscribed and collected; photographs that represent Rush Holt’s personal life and political career; ephemera collected by Rush Holt; and election results collected by Rush Holt.

Series 2. Artifacts; 1939-1952 and undated

Includes personal and political items collected by Rush Holt.

Series 3. Legislative Records; 1920-1955 and undated

Includes correspondence, reports, publications, clippings, statistics, transcripts, financial records, and project records, among other miscellaneous material relative to Rush Holt’s committee-based and general legislative activity.

Series 4. Constituent Services; 1923-1954 and undated

Includes mail received by Rush Holt during his time in the West Virginia House of Delegates and the United States Senate from constituents requesting government publications and bulletins, copies of speeches, educational material, and Rush Holt’s recommendation to the United States Military or Naval Academy. In some cases, this series also includes typescript responses, many of which are generic.

Series 5. Press and Media Activity; 1925-2003 and undated (bulk 1925-1955)

Includes original and photocopied articles from newspapers and similar publications, typescripts of press releases, pen-and-ink drawn political cartoons, transcripts of speeches, and sound recordings, among other material representing Rush Holt’s involvement with the press and media.

Series 6. Administrative Files; 1937-1940

Includes material documenting the daily office activities of Rush Holt and his staff during the former’s senatorial term.

Dates

  • 1840-2003
  • Majority of material found within 1918-1955

Creator

Language of Materials

English

Conditions Governing Access

No special access restriction applies.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to publish or reproduce is required from the copyright holder. For more information, please contact the West Virginia and Regional History Center.

Biographical / Historical

Rush Dew Holt was born in Weston, West Virginia, on June 19, 1905 to parents, Dr. Matthew S. Holt and Chihela (Dew) Holt. From an early age, Holt displayed scholarly potential. By age three, he was able to read first-grade primers, and eventually became interested in numerous topics for which he was able to provide detailed statistics. Among these interests was politics, and by age six, Holt had decided he would become a Democrat.

The potential displayed by Holt as a child continued into his school years. At age five, he began public education in the second grade, and he skipped grades on two more occasions. He attended Weston High School, and after graduating with honors at age fourteen, Holt applied to the University of Cincinnati; however, the register rejected the application because Holt, while academically qualified, was considered too young. Not one to admit defeat, a trait that would prove to be a lifelong characteristic, Holt turned to West Virginia University where he was accepted. As the youngest member of the freshman class, Holt found it difficult to obtain full acceptance as a college student, and his academic record reflected his apparent dissatisfaction. After two years at West Virginia University, Holt transferred to Salem College where the enrollment was smaller (approximately 300 students) and where he was able to live with his uncle, Professor Samuel Dew. It was at Salem College that Holt regained his self-confidence. His academic performance improved, and he maintained a B-plus average. In addition to academics, Holt excelled on the debate team. He was the editor-in-chief of the school paper, and he managed the tennis team.

In 1924, Holt received a Bachelor of Arts Degree and qualification to teach at secondary schools. Shortly after his graduation, he was hired to teach at Bedford High School in Virginia where he taught English and history in addition to serving as the school’s athletic director. After one academic year, Holt returned to Weston, West Virginia, where he took a position at St. Patrick’s High School as the athletic director. Holt also coached the basketball team with abundant success, leading the team to two national tournaments for Catholic schools. During this time, Holt also taught history as a part-time instructor at Glenville Normal School and Salem College, but his fascination with athletics persisted. In addition to coaching and occasional officiating, Holt also began writing about sports. Eventually, he began to contribute columns to daily West Virginia newspapers.

By the late 1920s, Holt was attracted to the political environment, and he began to contribute to candidates who were friends of and/or who shared the views of his father. In the summer of 1928, Holt went one step further by announcing his candidacy as a Democrat for the West Virginia House of Delegates. Despite Lewis County having been predominately Republican, in addition to not having received significant party backing, Holt still obtained a higher-than-expected amount of support, losing his race by only 500 votes. Once again, however, Holt would not admit defeat. In 1930 Holt again announced his candidacy for the West Virginia House of Delegates. During the campaign, he visited locations all around Lewis County, spoke to anyone who would listen, and ensured that the grievances such as those concerning government cost, increased taxes, and the power of privately owned public utilities would all be addressed. As expected with any campaign, Holt received criticism, and those who opposed him likened the young politician to his father who they declared was a radical, a socialist, and an atheist. Despite the scornful claims, Holt, by a margin of 2,150 votes, was elected to his first public office as a Democrat to the West Virginia Legislature where he served from 1931-1935. During his years as a delegate, as promised during his campaign, Holt spoke out against corrupt practices such as government spending, an issue he addressed not even a week into the 1931 session. In addition to debating issues in the House, Holt also wrote to state supported universities, highway commissioners, and auditors in West Virginia and numerous other states to gather financial figures concerning spending, salaries, and taxes among others. Holt also began an investigation in 1931 to uncover rates, operating costs, and profits of privately and publically owned utility companies. All of these endeavors were only the first chapter in Holt’s political career.

By 1934 he had gained the political support and the backing of union workers which was enough to defeat incumbent United States Senator Henry Hatfield. At age twenty-nine, Holt became the youngest person to win a United States Senate seat; however, there was immediate criticism. No sooner had the votes been tallied before a protest was filed concerning Holt’s credentials: the fact that he had run for an office when he had not been of the required age. In addition to discontent within his own state, Holt also received overwhelming opposition in Washington, D.C. from Senate Republicans who threatened to object on the grounds of the constitutional age requirement. Despite the criticism, Holt’s election was not overturned; however, he had to wait until he turned thirty, over five months after the Seventy-forth Congress had convened, before he could participate in senatorial proceedings.

Just as he had been active in the West Virginia Legislature, Holt did not hesitate to address both major and minor issues on Capitol Hill either. During his time in the Senate, Holt served on several committees including Education and Labor, Immigration, Mines and Mining, Naval Affairs, and Post Offices and Post Roads. He also served as a member of the United States delegation to the 1939 Interparliamentary Conference in Oslo, Norway.

Although Holt had once been referred to as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's “Golden Boy,” such alliances and the policies that had formed them began to dissolve by 1936. He became estranged from fellow Democrat and West Virginian Senator Matthew Neely, and Holt ended his support for the United Mine Workers of America and the Works Progress Administration, the latter of which he claimed was corrupt. Eventually, Holt criticized the Roosevelt administration for its New Deal policies, he adamantly fought Roosevelt's attempt to alter the Supreme Court by changing the number of sitting justices from nine to twelve, and he spoke out against the proposition of allowing a presidential third term. Furthermore, as unrest began in Europe with Germany’s invasion of Poland, Holt campaigned against any attempts by the administration to involve the United States in the War. The responses from constituents about Holt’s actions were mixed; nevertheless, the young senator’s sudden change led to his unsuccessful renomination attempt in 1940. Holt did not even make it past the primary election.

After his Senate term ended, Holt remained in Washington, D.C. and began to support himself as a lecturer and a writer of political issues, particularly neutrality for which he received the support of the America First Committee. It was also during this time that Holt met Helen Louise Froelich, a biology teacher at National Park College near Washington. They were married a year later and moved to West Virginia. The couple had two children: a daughter, Helen Jane Holt (born in 1945) and a son, Rush Dew Holt, Jr. (born in 1948). When Senator Holt's sister, Jane (Holt) Chase, died in 1952, the couple adopted her son, David. After the Holts returned to West Virginia in 1941, Holt stayed involved in politics by accepting speaking engagements.

During the remainder of the 1940s, Holt ran several times for state offices with modest success. He was elected to the State House of Delegates in 1942 and was reelected in 1944 by write-in vote and 1946 without opposition. After a failed attempt to win the West Virginia Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 1944 and the nomination for United States Senator in 1948, Holt changed political affiliation. Despite this, his lack of success to achieve positions beyond the House of Delegates continued. In 1950, he won the Republican nomination to represent West Virginia’s Third District in the United States House of Representatives but lost in the general election, and in 1952 Holt came very close to winning the race for West Virginia governor as the Republican candidate but lost to William Marland by fewer than 30,000 votes. Success returned in 1954 when Holt was elected to the West Virginia House of Delegates by the voters of Lewis County, but he was unable to finish his term due to illness.

Holt died on February 8, 1955 after a long, tough campaign against cancer.

Chronological List of Events:

June 19, 1905: born

1920: graduated from high school

1920-1922: attended West Virginia University

1922-1924: attended Salem College, received a BA degree

1924-1925: taught English and history and served as athletic director at Bedford High School in Virginia

1925-1928: served as athletic director and basketball coach at St. Patrick’s High School (Catholic school) in Weston, West Virginia; taught history as a part-time instructor at Glenville Normal School and Salem College; and contributed sport columns to daily West Virginia newspapers

1928: ran as a Democrat for the West Virginia House of Delegates, lost by 500 votes

1930: ran as a Democrat for the West Virginia House of Delegates, won by 2,150 votes, served from 1931-1935

1934: ran as a Democrat for the United States Senate and won despite being only twenty-nine years old

1939: served as a member of the United States delegation to the Interparliamentary Conference in Oslo, Norway

1940: ran for renomination to the Senate, failed to win the primary election

1941: married Helen Louise Froelich

1942: ran as a Democrat for the West Virginia House of Delegates and won, reelected in 1944, 1946, and 1948, served until 1950.

1944: ran as a Democrat for the West Virginia gubernatorial nomination but was unsuccessful

1945: birth of Helen Jane Holt

1948: birth of Rush Dew Holt, Jr.

1948: ran as a Democrat for the United States Senate nomination but was unsuccessful

1948: switched political affiliation to the Republican Party

1952: ran as the Republican candidate for West Virginia Governor but lost to William Marland by fewer than 30,000 votes

1954: ran as a Republican for the West Virginia House of Delegates and won

February 8, 1955: death

Sources:

Coffey, William Ellis. Rush Dew Holt: The Boy Senator. Dissertation, West Virginia University, 1970.

A&M 0873, Rush Dew Holt (1905-1955) Papers, West Virginia and Regional History Center, West Virginia University Libraries.

Extent

156.25 Linear Feet (Summary: 156 ft. 2 1/2 in. (360 document cases, 5 in. each); (1 document case, 4 in.); (14 document cases, 2 1/2 in.); (1 flat storage box, 5 in.); (1 flat storage box, 3 1/2 in.); (2 flat storage boxes, 3 in. each); (3 flat storage boxes, 2 1/2 in. each); (9 flat storage boxes, 1 1/2 in. each); 44 photos in photograph filing cabinets))

11.7 Gigabytes (131 TIFF files, 2 PDF files)

Overview

Papers of Rush Dew Holt, Sr. (1905-1955) relating to his personal and political activities. Types of material include publications, clippings, correspondence, photographs, and ephemera, among others. The collection is divided into six series: Personal and Political Papers (1840-2000 and undated), Artifacts (1939-1952 and undated), Legislative Records (1920-1955 and undated), Constituent Services (1923-1954 and undated), Press and Media Activity (1925-2003 and undated), and Administrative Files (1937-1940).

Arrangement

This collection is one of five (see also A&M 1858, 4218, 4039, and 3943) pertaining to Rush Dew Holt, Sr. and his family. The records have been gathered via multiple accruals from 1956 to 2016. Originally, these collections were divided between A&M 873 and A&M 1701, the latter also being composed of thirteen addenda and A&M 1858.

In an attempt to organize the collections in a more coherent fashion for patron use and to reflect the creator(s) in a more concise manner, the material was reevaluated and reorganized into the three sets of papers with distinct series and subseries: A&M 873: Rush Dew Holt (1905-1955) Papers; A&M 1858: Helen Holt (1913-2015) Papers; and A&M 4218: Rush Dew Holt Family Papers.

Because of the 2016-2017 reorganization, the physical arrangement no longer matches the intellectual arrangement and series order. Furthermore, any box and folder citations created prior to the above-mentioned project are likely no longer accurate.

For assistance locating material using an older citation, please ask a staff member of the West Virginia & Regional History Center.

Physical Location

West Virginia and Regional History Center / West Virginia University / 1549 University Avenue / P.O. Box 6069 / Morgantown, WV 26506-6069 / Phone: 304-293-3536 / Fax: 304-293-3981 / URL: https://wvrhc.lib.wvu.edu/

Related A&M Collections

0873, 1858, 4218, 4039, 3943

Separated Materials

Ephemeral items not specific to Rush Dew Holt were moved to the Printed Ephemera Collection. Several local basketball scorecards were moved to A&M 4216, the Annual West Virginia State High School Basketball Tournament Programs collection.

17 reels of undated sound recordings, chiefly relating to the political career of Rush Dew Holt, were separated to the oral history collection, C432 R699-R715 (17 tapes). These tapes include some personal material as well.
Title
Rush Dew Holt (1905-1955) Papers
Author
Staff of the West Virginia & Regional History Center; James Shaver
Date
2017/05/25
Description rules
dacs
Language of description
English

Repository Details

Part of the West Virginia and Regional History Center Repository

Contact:
1549 University Ave.
P.O. Box 6069
Morgantown WV 26506-6069 US
304-293-3536