Matthew M. Neely
United States Senator
from West Virginia
In office
January 3, 1949 – January 18, 1958
Preceded byChapman Revercomb
Succeeded byJohn D. Hoblitzell Jr.
In office
March 4, 1931 – January 12, 1941
Preceded byGuy D. Goff
Succeeded byJoseph Rosier
In office
March 4, 1923 – March 3, 1929
Preceded byHoward Sutherland
Succeeded byHenry D. Hatfield
21st Governor of West Virginia
In office
January 13, 1941 – January 15, 1945
Preceded byHomer A. Holt
Succeeded byClarence W. Meadows
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from West Virginia's 1st district
In office
January 3, 1945 – January 3, 1947
Preceded byA. C. Schiffler
Succeeded byFrancis J. Love
In office
October 14, 1913 – March 3, 1921
Preceded byJohn W. Davis
Succeeded byBenjamin L. Rosenbloom
Personal details
Matthew Mansfield Neely

(1874-11-09)November 9, 1874
Grove, West Virginia, U.S.
DiedJanuary 18, 1958(1958-01-18) (aged 83)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Resting placeWoodlawn Cemetery
Fairmont, West Virginia
Political partyDemocratic
SpouseAlberta Ramage Neely
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Army
Battles/warsSpanish–American War

Matthew Mansfield Neely (November 9, 1874 – January 18, 1958) was an American Democratic politician from West Virginia. He is the only West Virginian to serve in both houses of the United States Congress and as the Governor of West Virginia. He is also the only person to have held a full term in both Senate seats from the state.


He was born in Grove, West Virginia on November 9, 1874.[1] He attended Salem College of West Virginia (now Salem International University), but did not earn a degree. At the outbreak of the Spanish–American War he entered the United States Army as a private. Following the war, he earned a law degree from West Virginia University. In 1903, he married Alberta Ramage.[2]

He entered the practice of law in Fairmont, West Virginia and was elected its mayor in 1908. He was elected as a Congressman to an unexpired term in 1913 and was re-elected through 1918. In the 1920 election, he was defeated, due to his association with the policies of Woodrow Wilson.

He then ran for, and was elected to, the United States Senate in 1922 as a Democrat. He was defeated for re-election in 1928. He then ran for the state's other Senate seat in 1930 and was elected. He was re-elected in 1936. In 1940 he ran for governor and resigned the remaining two years of his Senate term.

He soon regretted his decision and strongly considered resigning to run for his old Senate seat in 1942. In later life he expressed strong regret for his term as governor. Upon the expiration of his term as governor in 1944, he ran for and was elected to his old House seat. He was, however, defeated for re-election in 1946.

Neely during his later career

In 1948, he was again elected to the Senate, beginning his third non-consecutive term there. He continued to serve until his death in 1958, after which he was interred in Fairmont's Woodlawn Cemetery.

He was a New Deal Democrat and advocate for organized labor and civil rights. During his terms in the Senate in the 1930s he sponsored "anti-lynching" legislation, but such legislation never passed. Neely did not sign the 1956 Southern Manifesto despite school segregation being legally required in West Virginia prior to Brown v. Board of Education (1954),[3] but Neely did not vote on the Civil Rights Act of 1957.[4][5] When he returned to the Senate after a term as governor and another term in the House of Representatives, he had lost his seniority, although he had many friends among the senior senators. He was assigned the Chairmanship of the U.S. Senate Committee on the District of Columbia, where he became the preeminent proponent of "home rule" for the District, effectively urging that the government of the District of Columbia be turned over to its majority of African-American citizens. He died in 1958, several years before the home rule he had sponsored finally passed both houses of Congress.

Neely was also a mentor of then West Virginia attorney George W. Crockett, Jr., and later Member of Congress, who credited Neely with converting him from a Lincoln Republican to a New Deal Democrat.[6]

Neely was known through his political career as a master orator. In his honor, Fairmont State University sponsors an oratory contest in his name every year.

His grandson was Richard Neely, an author and politician who served as the chief justice of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals.


Senator Neely introduced the first Department of Peace bill in 1935.[7] Neely reintroduced the bill in 1937 and 1939.[7] In 1937, along with senator Homer Bone and representative Warren Magnuson, Neely introduced the National Cancer Institute Act, which was signed into law by Franklin Roosevelt on August 5 of that year.[8] The Neely Anti-Block Booking Act gradually broke the control of the movie theaters by the studios.

See also


  1. ^ "Matthew Mansfield Neely". Archived from the original on 2007-09-29. Retrieved 2007-02-23.
  2. ^ "West Virginia's First Ladies," West Virginia Division of Culture and History, June 2007.
  3. ^ "Senate – March 12, 1956" (PDF). Congressional Record. 102 (4). U.S. Government Printing Office: 4459–4461. Retrieved April 12, 2023.
  4. ^ "Senate – August 7, 1957" (PDF). Congressional Record. 103 (10). U.S. Government Printing Office: 13900. Retrieved February 18, 2022.
  5. ^ "Senate – August 29, 1957" (PDF). Congressional Record. 103 (12). U.S. Government Printing Office: 16478. Retrieved February 18, 2022.
  6. ^ Thomas Jr., Robert (15 September 1997). "George W. Crockett Dies at 88; Was a Civil Rights Crusader". The New York Times. Retrieved 22 December 2018.
  7. ^ a b Schuman, Frederick L. (1969). Why a Department of Peace. Beverly Hills: Another Mother for Peace. p. 56. OCLC 339785.
  8. ^ Mukherjee, Siddhartha (16 November 2010). The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer. Simon and Schuster. p. 25. ISBN 978-1-4391-0795-9. Retrieved 6 September 2011.
U.S. House of Representatives Preceded byJohn W. Davis Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from West Virginia's 1st congressional district October 14, 1913 – March 3, 1921 Succeeded byBenjamin L. Rosenbloom Preceded byA. C. Schiffler Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from West Virginia's 1st congressional district January 3, 1945 – January 3, 1947 Succeeded byFrancis J. Love U.S. Senate Preceded byHoward Sutherland U.S. senator (Class 1) from West Virginia March 4, 1923 – March 3, 1929 Served alongside: Davis Elkins, Guy D. Goff Succeeded byHenry D. Hatfield Preceded byGuy D. Goff U.S. senator (Class 2) from West Virginia March 4, 1931 – January 12, 1941 Served alongside: Henry D. Hatfield, Rush D. Holt Succeeded byJoseph Rosier Preceded byW. Chapman Revercomb U.S. senator (Class 2) from West Virginia January 3, 1949 – January 18, 1958 Served alongside: Harley M. Kilgore, William R. Laird, W. Chapman Revercomb Succeeded byJohn D. Hoblitzell Political offices Preceded byHomer A. Holt Governor of West Virginia January 13, 1941 – January 15, 1945 Succeeded byClarence W. Meadows Party political offices Preceded byWilliam E. Chilton Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from West Virginia (Class 1) 1922, 1928 Succeeded byRush D. Holt Preceded byWilliam E. Chilton Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from West Virginia (Class 2) 1930, 1936 Succeeded byJoseph Rosier Preceded byHomer A. Holt Democratic nominee for Governor of West Virginia 1940 Succeeded byClarence W. Meadows Preceded byJoseph Rosier Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from West Virginia (Class 2) 1942, 1948, 1954 Succeeded byJennings Randolph