George W. Atkinson

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George W. Atkinson
George W. Atkinson.gif
10th Governor of West Virginia
In office
March 4, 1897 – March 4, 1901
Preceded by William A. MacCorkle
Succeeded by Albert B. White
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from West Virginia's 1st district
In office
February 26, 1890 – March 3, 1891
Preceded by John O. Pendleton
Succeeded by John O. Pendleton
Personal details
Born (1845-06-29)June 29, 1845
Charleston, Virginia
(now West Virginia)
Died April 4, 1925(1925-04-04) (aged 79)
Charleston, West Virginia
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Ellen Eagan, Myra Horner Camden Atkinson
Profession Politician
Religion Methodist

George Wesley Atkinson (June 29, 1845 – April 4, 1925) of Ohio County was an attorney and politician, the tenth Governor of West Virginia, serving 1897-1901. He also served in the U.S. House of Representatives and was appointed as a federal judge on the United States Court of Claims.


Atkinson was born in Charleston, West Virginia, in 1854, when it was still part of Virginia. It seceded and joined the Union during the American Civil War. He attended local schools before going to college. In 1870, Atkinson graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with an A.B.. He served as toll collector on the Kanawha River Board from 1869 to 1871, even during his last year in college. After graduation, he was appointed postmaster of Charleston in 1871.

He returned to graduate school, earning an M.A. at Ohio Wesleyan in 1873, and an LL.B. from Howard University in 1874.

After coming back to Charleston, he joined the Republican Party and soon ran for office. He was defeated for election to the West Virginia Legislature in 1876. He worked as an Internal Revenue agent from 1879 to 1881. His success at interfering with moonshiners (who sold their product without collecting taxes or reporting their income) led to his appointment as a United States Marshall, serving until 1885.

In 1888, he ran for Congress as a Republican against Democrat John O. Pendleton. The election was contested, and although Pendleton had presented his credentials and served in the seat for nearly a year, Atkinson was eventually declared the winner by Congress and seated.

Atkinson defeated Democratic Party candidate Cornelius Clarkson Watts in the 1896 election for Governor of West Virginia and served until 1901.

He was later appointed as United States District Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia. In 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt appointed Atkinson as associate judge of the US Court of Claims. He served from April 15, 1905, until his retirement on April 16, 1916.

Atkinson remained active in the Republican Party, for instance, supporting the candidacy of T. Gillis Nutter, an African-American attorney from Charleston, for the state legislature in 1918.[1] Nutter won two terms, at a time when he was nearly the only black to occupy statewide office in the South. The former Confederate states had disenfranchised most blacks and many poor whites from changes to state laws raising barriers to voter registration, from 1890 to 1908.

Marriages and family[edit]

Atkinson was married twice and had four children with his first wife. His first marriage was in 1868 to Ellen Eagan. Following her death years later, he married a widow, Myra (Horner) Camden, in 1897.

Atkinson died in Charleston, West Virginia on April 4, 1925 and was buried in Spring Hill Cemetery.



  1. ^ "Men of the Month: Two Negro Legislators," The Crisis, vol. 17, no. 3, whole no. 99 (Jan. 1919), pg. 123.
  • The United States Court of Claims: a history / pt. 1. The judges, 1855–1976 / by Marion T. Bennett / pt. 2. Origin, development, jurisdiction, 1855–1978 / W. Cowen, P. Nichols, M.T. Bennett. Washington, D.C.: Committee on the Bicentennial of Independence and the Constitution of the Judicial Conference of the United States. 1976. 

External links[edit]

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
John O. Pendleton
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from West Virginia's 1st congressional district

Succeeded by
John O. Pendleton
Political offices
Preceded by
William A. MacCorkle
Governor of West Virginia
Succeeded by
Albert B. White