Gus Douglass

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Gus R. Douglass
Gus Douglass.jpg
Douglass in September 2008
West Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture
In office
1993–2013
Governor Gaston Caperton, Cecil H. Underwood, Bob Wise, Joe Manchin, Earl Ray Tomblin
Preceded by Cleve Benedict
Succeeded by Walt Helmick
In office
1965–1989
Governor Hulett C. Smith, Arch A. Moore, Jr., Jay Rockefeller
Preceded by John T. Johnson
Succeeded by Cleve Benedict
Personal details
Born (1927-02-22)February 22, 1927
Mason County, West Virginia, U.S.
Died March 19, 2015(2015-03-19) (aged 88)
Mason County, West Virginia, U.S.
Political party Democratic Party
Spouse(s) Anna Lee Douglass
Alma mater West Virginia University

Gus R. Douglass (February 22, 1927 – March 19, 2015) was an American politician and member of the Democratic Party, who served as Agriculture Commissioner of West Virginia for 44 years.[1] First elected to that post in 1964, he served from 1965 to 1989, when he left office having run unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for Governor, and again from 1993 to 2013.[2] He was the longest-serving Agriculture Commissioner in US history.[3][2]

Early life[edit]

Douglass was born in Mason County in 1927[4] and raised in Grimms Landing, West Virginia. He served as state and national president of the Future Farmers of America (FFA) as the first president of the FFA to hail from West Virginia, and later was the inaugural president of the National FFA Alumni Association. He is also a 4-H All-Star. Douglas holds a bachelor's degree and an honorary Doctor of Sciences from West Virginia University and an honorary Doctor of Laws from West Virginia State University. Prior to beginning work for the Department of Agriculture, Douglass operated a farm equipment and motor truck dealership.[5]

Career[edit]

Douglass, then a farmer in Mason County, was recruited to the position of Assistant Commissioner in the West Virginia Department of Agriculture by then-Commissioner John T. Johnson in 1957.[3] He went on to serve as Commissioner in his own right for six terms between 1965 and 1989, and five more between 1993 and 2013. He unsuccessfully ran for Governor of West Virginia in 1988.[6]

Douglass was re-elected in 2008 over Republican nominee J. Michael Teets, having campaigned on his record of having established programs for meat inspection, food safety and animal health, and calling for technology and security measures including a mobile laboratory able to identify viruses more quickly.[3][7] In his last term, he successfully acquired funding from the West Virginia Legislature for a cold storage facility near Ripley which is used to store food for the state's schools and its donated foods program, and could also be used for disaster preparation.[3]

During his tenure as Agriculture Commissioner, Douglass served as president of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, the Southern Association of State Departments of Agriculture and the Southern United States Trade Association; and chair of the Southern Regional Committee for Food and Agriculture and the United States Secretary of Agriculture's Advisory Committee on Foreign Animal and Poultry Diseases.[3] He also testified before the United States Congress multiple times on matters relating to farming.[6]

When he retired Douglass had worked at the West Virginia Department of Agriculture for more than half of its then 101-year history. Over the period the department's budget grew from less than $1 million to more than $55 million.[8]

Retirement[edit]

Douglass announced on May 17, 2011 that he would not seek re-election in 2012, after colleagues in the Department of Agriculture expressed an interest in the position of Commissioner.[3] At the press conference at which he announced his retirement, he described his electoral history as "truly humbling."[9] Douglass was succeeded in 2013 by Walt Helmick.[1]

In 2014 an audit by the West Virginia Legislature found mismanagement, potential fraud and lack of oversight in a loan program operated by the Department of Agriculture during Douglass's tenure.[8] The audit's findings included that Douglass had sought reimbursement of $106.72 per night at the for a campsite at the West Virginia State Fair when in reality the State Fair provided the campsite free of charge.[10] The audit's findings were turned over to federal prosecutors who, as of March 2015, have taken no action; and the loan program was restructured under Helmick.[8] Douglass said he was not contacted as part of the audit.[6] A follow-up audit later in 2014 raised additional issues with the loan program and found evidence of inappropriate reimbursements and expense claims, including a $282 expense for two nights' lodging for Douglas in relation to a November 2013 retirement party.[11]

Personal life[edit]

Douglass ran a 540-acre farm which specialized in beef cattle and grain production with his son, Tom. He and his wife, Anna Lee, had four children, six grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.[5] Anna Lee died in October 2014.[8]

Death[edit]

Douglass died on March 19, 2015, following a fall at his home in Mason County. He was 88.[6] His funeral was held on March 22, 2015.[12] He is survived by his four children and a number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.[8]

Electoral history[edit]

West Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture, Democratic primary, 1964[13]
Gus R. Douglass – 72,016 (27.90%)
Charles E. Jenkins – 46,486 (18.01%)
Roscoe Beall – 38,087 (14.76%)
Carroll R. Hawkins – 34,415 (13.33%)
O. Roy Parker – 27,244 (10.56%)
V. L. Martin – 27,127 (10.51%)
J. P. (Joe) Muck – 12,715 (4.93%)
West Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture, general election, 1964[14]
Gus R. Douglass, Democratic Party – 451,850 (62.01%)
Nicholas M. Homes, Republican Party – 276,834 (37.99%)
West Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture, Democratic primary, 1968[15]
Gus R. Douglass – 128,774 (52.70%)
Charles E. Jenkins – 115,562 (47.30%)
West Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture, general election, 1968[16]
Gus R. Douglass, Democratic Party – 367,949 (53.89%)
Edward T. White, Republican Party – 314,882 (46.11%)
West Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture, Democratic primary, 1972[17]
Gus R. Douglass – 179,130 (64.06%)
Charles Jenkins – 100,480 (35.94%)
West Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture, general election, 1972[18]
Gus R. Douglass, Democratic Party – 452,829 (100.00%)
West Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture, Democratic primary, 1976[19]
Gus R. Douglass – 198,803 (63.70%)
Charles E. Jenkins – 113,295 (36.30%)
West Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture, general election, 1976[20]
Gus R. Douglass, Democratic Party – 508,998 (100.00%)
West Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture, Democratic primary, 1980[21]
Gus R. Douglass – 183,711 (68.21%)
Charles E. Jenkins – 85,626 (31.79%)
West Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture, general election, 1980[22]
Gus R. Douglass, Democratic Party – 442,215 (67.37%)
Lionel L. Smith, Republican Party – 214,228 (32.63%)
West Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture, Democratic primary, 1984[23]
Gus R. Douglass – 227,715 (69.84%)
Charles E. Jenkins – 98,326 (30.16%)
West Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture, general election, 1984[24]
Gus R. Douglass, Democratic Party – 447,947 (67.46%)
Glenn M. Smith, Jr., Republican Party – 216,100 (32.54%)
Governor of West Virginia, Democratic primary, 1988[25]
Gaston Caperton – 132,435 (37.96%)
Clyde See – 94,364 (27.05%)
Mario J. Palumbo – 51,722 (14.84%)
Gus R. Douglass – 48,748 (13.97%)
Dan Tonkovich – 14,916 (4.28%)
Larry Harless – 5,217 (1.50%)
Paul Nuchims – 1,484 (0.43%)
West Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture, Democratic primary, 1992[26]
Gus R. Douglass – 195,494 (70.02%)
Frederick L. Parker – 50,443 (18.07%)
Jeffrey K. Silverman – 33,253 (11.91%)
West Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture, general election, 1992[27]
Gus R. Douglass, Democratic Party – 413,869 (70.64%)
Steven C. Teufel, Republican Party – 172,060 (29.37%)
West Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture, Democratic primary, 1996[28]
Gus R. Douglass – 252,246 (100.00%)
West Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture, general election, 1996[29]
Gus R. Douglass, Democratic Party – 401,961 (72.08%)
Paul Nuchims, Republican Party – 155,673 (27.92%)
West Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture, Democratic primary, 2000[30]
Gus R. Douglass – 224,800 (100.00%)
West Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture, general election, 2000[31]
Gus R. Douglass, Democratic Party – 485,648 (100.00%)
West Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture, Democratic primary, 2004[32]
Gus R. Douglass – 217,069 (100.00%)
West Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture, general election, 2004[33]
Gus R. Douglass, Democratic Party – 437,881 (63.34%)
Andrew Yost, Republican Party – 253,402 (36.66%)
West Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture, Democratic primary, 2008[34]
Gus R. Douglass – 193,766 (63.08%)
Oscar Wayne Casto – 113,400 (36.92%)
West Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture, general election, 2008[35]
Gus R. Douglass, Democratic Party – 352,242 (53.07%)
James Michael Teets, Republican Party – 311,496 (46.93%)

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Burdette, Matthew (January 15, 2013). "Tomblin takes oath of office again". The Journal. Retrieved February 1, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b Rivard, Ry (May 16, 2011). "CAMPAIGN NOTEBOOK: Douglass to announce, Ireland thanks supporters". Charleston Daily Mail. Retrieved May 22, 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f Smith, Vicki (May 17, 2011). "W.Va. ag commissioner won't seek re-election". Deseret News. Retrieved February 11, 2014. 
  4. ^ "This week in West Virginia history". The Herald-Dispatch. February 21, 2011. Retrieved February 11, 2014. 
  5. ^ a b "Biography of Commissioner Gus R. Douglass". West Virginia Department of Agriculture. November 10, 2008. Retrieved May 22, 2011. 
  6. ^ a b c d "Former W.Va. agriculture commissioner Gus Douglass dies". The Journal. March 19, 2015. Retrieved March 19, 2015. 
  7. ^ Farkas, Brian (October 8, 2008). "W.Va. ag chief running for 11th 4-year term". Fox News. Retrieved May 22, 2011. 
  8. ^ a b c d e Kabler, Phil (March 19, 2015). "Longtime W.Va. agriculture commissioner Gus Douglass dies". The Charleston Gazette. Retrieved April 14, 2015. 
  9. ^ "Heading To The Farm". WCHS Radio 58. Retrieved May 22, 2011. 
  10. ^ Lawrence, Chris (February 10, 2014). "Audit finds an array of problems with Department of Agriculture". West Virginia MetroNews. Retrieved April 15, 2015. 
  11. ^ Kabler, Phil (August 26, 2014). "Ag agency audit finds possible fraud". The Charleston Gazette. Retrieved April 15, 2015. 
  12. ^ Clay, Jarrod (March 22, 2015). "Funeral Services Held For Gus Douglass". WCHS-TV. Retrieved April 15, 2015. 
  13. ^ "1964 Primary Election – Official Returns of the Democratic Party" (PDF). West Virginia Secretary of State. pp. 7–9. Retrieved February 11, 2014. 
  14. ^ "1964 General Election – Official Election Returns" (PDF). West Virginia Secretary of State. pp. 12–13. Retrieved February 11, 2014. 
  15. ^ "1968 Primary Election – Official Returns of the Democratic Party" (PDF). West Virginia Secretary of State. pp. 6–7. Retrieved February 11, 2014. 
  16. ^ "1968 General Election – Official Election Returns" (PDF). West Virginia Secretary of State. pp. 13–15. Retrieved February 13, 2014. 
  17. ^ "1972 Primary Election – Official Returns of the Democratic Party" (PDF). West Virginia Secretary of State. pp. 15–16. Retrieved February 13, 2014. 
  18. ^ "1972 General Election – Official Returns" (PDF). West Virginia Secretary of State. pp. 14–15. Retrieved February 13, 2014. 
  19. ^ "1976 Primary Election – Official Returns of the Democratic Party" (PDF). West Virginia Secretary of State. pp. 14–15. Retrieved February 13, 2014. 
  20. ^ "1976 General Election – Official Election Returns" (PDF). West Virginia Secretary of State. pp. 12–13. Retrieved February 13, 2014. 
  21. ^ "1980 Primary Election: Commissioner of Agriculture" (PDF). West Virginia Secretary of State. pp. 1–2. Retrieved February 13, 2014. 
  22. ^ "1980 General Election: WV Commissioner of Agriculture" (PDF). West Virginia Secretary of State. Retrieved February 13, 2014. 
  23. ^ "1984 Primary Election – Official Returns of the Democratic Party" (PDF). West Virginia Secretary of State. pp. 13–15. Retrieved February 13, 2014. 
  24. ^ "1984 General Election – Official Election Returns" (PDF). West Virginia Secretary of State. pp. 13–14. Retrieved February 13, 2014. 
  25. ^ "1988 Primary Election – Official Returns of the Democratic Party" (PDF). West Virginia Secretary of State. pp. 8–10. Retrieved February 13, 2014. 
  26. ^ "1992 Primary Election – Official Returns of the Democratic Party" (PDF). West Virginia Secretary of State. pp. 13–15. Retrieved February 13, 2014. 
  27. ^ "1992 General Election – Official Election Returns" (PDF). West Virginia Secretary of State. pp. 10–11. Retrieved February 13, 2014. 
  28. ^ "1996 Primary Election – Official Returns of the Democratic Party" (PDF). West Virginia Secretary of State. pp. 14–15. Retrieved February 13, 2014. 
  29. ^ "1996 General Election – Official Election Returns" (PDF). West Virginia Secretary of State. pp. 11–12. Retrieved February 13, 2014. 
  30. ^ "2000 Primary Election: Commissioner of Agriculture" (PDF). West Virginia Secretary of State. Retrieved February 13, 2014. 
  31. ^ "2000 General Election: Commissioner of Agriculture" (PDF). West Virginia Secretary of State. Retrieved February 13, 2014. 
  32. ^ "2004 Primary Election: Commissioner of Agriculture" (PDF). West Virginia Secretary of State. pp. 1–3. Retrieved February 13, 2014. 
  33. ^ "2004 General Election: Commissioner of Agriculture" (PDF). West Virginia Secretary of State. Retrieved February 13, 2014. 
  34. ^ "Statewide Results: Primary Election – May 13, 2008". West Virginia Secretary of State. Retrieved February 13, 2014. 
  35. ^ "Statewide Results: General Election - November 4, 2008". West Virginia Secretary of State. Retrieved February 13, 2014. 

External links[edit]