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Homer Adams Holt (1898-1975) Papers

Collection Number: A&M 1450

Scope and Contents

Correspondence, messages, and state papers of West Virginia's twentieth governor, 1937-1941, and manuscript drafts of "West Virginia: A Guide to the Mountain State (1941)," the Works Project Administration's Federal Writer's Project's work on West Virginia. Also included are assorted speeches and addresses given by Holt, newspaper clippings and articles regarding Holt's successor as Governor of West Virginia, Matthew Neely, and other political figures, and correspondence with governors from other states regarding the Hatch Act of 1939.



  • Creation: 1937-1944


Language of Materials


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 see the Permissions and Copyright page on the West Virginia and Regional History Center website.

Biographical / Historical

Homer Adams Holt was born in Lewisburg, WV in 1898. He graduated from Greenbrier Military School and Washington and Lee University. During World War I, he attained the rank of lieutenant in the Army. After the war, Holt returned to Washington and Lee as an instructor and a law student. After graduating in 1923, he taught law at the school for two years. In 1925, he established a law practice in Fayetteville, Fayette County. He served as state Attorney General under Governor Herman Guy Kump (1933-1937), helping to devise a new tax system.

During the early 1930s, the nation's worst recorded industrial accident occurred at the site of a new hydroelectric power plant at Hawks Nest being constructed for the Union Carbide and Carbon Corporation. Contractors Rinehard and Dennis violated standard safety procedures, exposing workers to dangerous silica dust. Between 476 and 764 workers died from silicosis, a condition caused from inhaling silica particles. The number is difficult to determine because many of the workers were migrant African Americans from the South who left the area after construction was completed. The deaths at Hawks Nest resulted in the recognition of silicosis as an occupational disease. As West Virginia's Attorney General at the time, Holt successfully defended Union Carbide in the ensuing U.S. Supreme Court trial, ("United States vs. State of West Virginia," 295 US 463 [1935]).

As governor, Holt instituted a program to improve the facilities of state institutions. He drew criticism for his attacks on school lobbyists and the labor movement, resulting in a split within the Democratic party. A significant innovation was the establishment of an interim committee to study proposed legislation and draft bills when the legislature was not in session.

During Holt's administration, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) began work on "West Virginia: A Guide to the Mountain State," which detailed the incident at Hawks Nest. Holt strident objections to this and other subject matter delayed publication of the book until Governor Matthew Neely took office in 1941. A detailed discussion of the WPA Guide can be found in Jerry B. Thomas' "`The Nearly Perfect State': Governor Homer Adams Holt, the WPA Writers' Project and the Making of West Virginia: A Guide to the Mountain State in West Virginia History, Volume 52 (1993).

After leaving office, Holt joined a Charleston law firm. From 1947 to 1953, he was general counsel of the Union Carbide and Carbon Corporation in New York City, serving also as a director and vice president. In retirement, he practiced law on a part-time basis. Holt died in Charleston in 1975.

(Adapted from "Homer Adams Holt" West Virginia Archives and History. 2019. Accessed October 29, 2020.


2.1 Linear Feet (2 ft. 1 in. (5 document cases, 5 in. each))

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:

Homer Adams Holt (1898-1975) Papers
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Repository Details

Part of the West Virginia and Regional History Center Repository

1549 University Ave.
P.O. Box 6069
Morgantown WV 26506-6069 US