Charleston, W.Va. - This week will mark the first time since 1930 that there will be a Republican majority in the House of Delegates. Since the Capitol’s dedication in 1932, it will also be the first time ever that a Republican Speaker of House will preside in the chamber.
Speaker of the House
J. William Cummins served one-term as the Republican House Speaker from 1929-1931. A native of Wheeling, he represented Ohio County in the House of Delegates. Educated in West Virginia’s public schools, Cummins was an attorney who studied at West Virginia University, and later Georgetown Law School. According to his published biography in the 1929 West Virginia Blue Book in the speaker position “he made an enviable record by reason of his ability and fairness as a presiding officer.”
Like his Republican predecessor, incoming Speaker Tim Armstead is an attorney, also educated at West Virginia University. Armstead represents the 40th District in Kanawha County, and previously served as Minority Leader for eight years.
Armstead, who received the Golden Horseshoe as an eighth-grader stated, “I could have never imagined I would be part of such a historic moment in our State’s history. I am humbled and honored to be the first Republican House Speaker to strike the gavel in this chamber.”
Democrats and Republicans in the House of Delegates
In 1930, the House of Delegates was comprised of 94 seats with a roster of 63 Republicans and 31 Democrats. Since that time, six seats have been added bringing the total to 100. The current roster of the House of Delegates is comprised of 64 Republicans and 36 Democrats.
This session, there will be a father in the Senate with their child serving in the House, just as there was in 1930. Del. Ralph Hiner of Pendleton County served in the House of Delegates, while his father Sen. Ben H. Hiner served in the State Senate.
Now, more than eight-decades later, Saira Blair, R-Berkley will serve in the House of Delegates, while her father, Sen. Craig Blair, R-Berkley will continue his first-term in the State Senate. Blair represents much of the same area her father represented during his four-terms in the House of Delegates.
Del. Saira Blair has already made her mark as the youngest elected legislator in the United States.
“I'm looking forward to representing Morgan and Berkeley Counties with my father. I'm grateful to have him as a mentor and will take his advice and put it in action myself,” stated Del. Blair.
Additionally, Del. Ron Walters, R-Kanawha and his son, Sen. Chris Walters, R-Putnam have the distinction of being the first father-son team in the House and Senate, respectively.
“I am extremely honored to be a part of the historic change taking place in both legislative bodies. I am so proud of my son and I am grateful to have the opportunity to serve with him,” said Del. Waters.
According to the records from the 39th House of Delegates in 1929, William B. Hogg of Mingo County served as the Republican floor leader. Aside from the Republican Floor Leader and the Speaker, there were no other majority leadership positions during the last Republican Majority.
“Unfortunately, my predecessor was just a few years short of serving in what is now our state Capitol building. I look forward to being the first Republican Majority Leader to ever serve in this building, and providing representation on behalf of the eastern panhandle,” said Del. Daryl Cowles, R-Morgan, who will serve as House Majority Leader.
Joining Cowles, Del. Carol Miller, R-Cabell will be the Assistant Majority Leader.
“I am honored for the opportunity to be the first female to serve in a leadership position under a Republican-led majority in the House of Delegates.”
Rounding out the leadership team, Del. John D. O’Neal IV, R-Raleigh will serve as House Majority Whip and Del. Bill Anderson, R-Wood will serve as the Speaker Pro Tempore.
“This is a tremendous honor, and I am excited to serve as a part of this history-making leadership team,” stated Del. O’Neal.
“As Speaker Pro Tempore, I hope to use my years of service and experience to help guide the House of Delegates to good decisions and responsible government,” said Anderson.
Women Making Strides
Del. Frances Radenbaugh of Parkersburg was the only woman who served in the House of Delegates nearly 85 years ago. She was a practicing attorney who had previously served as Commissioner of Schools and Lands for Wood County.
A total of 19 women will make up the roster for the 82nd House of Delegates. Del. Jill Upson, R-Jefferson is the first African-American woman from the Republican Party to serve in the House of Delegates.
“It is truly humbling to be part of this historic occasion. I do not take lightly the trust that voters have placed in me, and the spirit of openness and acceptance that is in embodied in their support,” remarked Del. Jill Upson.
Just before the last Republican Majority in 1928, Minnie Buckingham Harper was appointed to the West Virginia House of Delegates making her the first African-American woman to become a member of any legislative body in the United States. Cumulatively, more than 200 women have served in the West Virginia House of Delegates.
(The historic information in this release was compiled from the 1929 West Virginia Blue Book and 1930 West Virginia Blue Book with the assistance of the Office of Reference & Information.)