Rush D. Holt Sr

Rush D. Holt, Sr.
United States Senator
from West Virginia
In office
June 21, 1935 – January 3, 1941
Preceded by Henry D. Hatfield
Succeeded by Harley M. Kilgore
Personal details
Born Rush Dew Holt
(1905-06-19)June 19, 1905
Weston, West Virginia
Died February 8, 1955(1955-02-08) (aged 49)
Bethesda, Maryland
Political party Democratic (until 1949)
Spouse(s) Helen F. Holt
Profession Teacher

Rush Dew Holt, Sr. (June 19, 1905 – February 8, 1955) was an American politician who was a United States Senator from West Virginia (1935–1941) and a member of the West Virginia House of Delegates (1931–1935, 1954–1955).

Early life and family

Holt was born in Weston, Lewis County, West Virginia, on June 19, 1905.[1] His parents were Chilela (née Dew) and Dr. Matthew Samuel Holt,[2] a small-town physician and horse trader. Matthew Holt was an atheist, who shifted his political support from the Republican Party to William Jennings Bryan in the 1890s, and then to Socialist candidate Eugene Debs; Matthew Holt attended the Socialist Party's 1917 convention, where he participated in condemning American involvement in World War I.[3]

Rush Holt attended the public schools and West Virginia University at Morgantown; he graduated from Salem College in 1924. He became a high school teacher and athletic coach, then an instructor at Salem College.[1]

Political career

Holt was elected as a Democrat to the West Virginia House of Delegates, serving from 1931 to 1935.[1] In this office, he was described as "a champion of the common man and a critic of privately owned utility corporations."[3]

In November 1934, at age 29, he was elected to the United States Senate, but because a Senator is constitutionally required to be at least 30 years old, he could not take his seat until after his 30th birthday in June 1935.[1] Holt was the youngest person ever popularly elected to the U.S. Senate.[3]

Holt was elected with the support of the United Mine Workers and the endorsement of Democratic West Virginia Senator Matthew M. Neely. Holt proclaimed himself an unequivocal supporter of President Franklin D. Roosevelt; though, according to William E. Coffey, "most knowledgeable observers ... viewed Holt as politically left of the president." However, by 1936, Holt emerged as a vocal conservative critic of the New Deal, attacking, for example, the Works Progress Administration as corrupt and inefficient.[3] One scoring method found Holt to be the third most conservative Democratic Senator to serve between 1937 and 2002.[4] It would be more accurate to describe Holt as a traditional populist liberal, who objected to departures from traditional liberalism by F.D.R.

Throughout his Senate career, Holt was a staunch

These activities did not make Holt popular with his constituents; in his 1940 bid for renomination, Holt came in third. After his Senate term expired, on January 3, 1941, Holt continued living in Washington, D.C., supporting himself as a lecturer and author. He was an active antiwar lecturer, most often supported by the sponsorship of the America First Committee. He attended dozens of antiwar rallies across the United States, usually as the featured speaker. This speaking tour ended after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the America First Committee was dissolved. Holt's foreign policy views remained the same, writing in 1942: "Our fight is not over. We must stand guard to see that the internationalists ... are not allowed to determine the future of our great country. They would commit us to everlasting wars everywhere."[3]

Holt unsuccessfully sought the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 1944 and the Democratic nomination for United States Senator in 1948. He switched to the Republican Party in 1949, and was an unsuccessful Republican candidate for election to the Eighty-second Congress in 1950.[1] In 1952, Holt was the nearly successful Republican candidate for governor of West Virginia as he earned 48% of the vote. [3] Republican nominee for Governor of West Virginia. In 1954, he was elected to the West Virginia House of Delegates; Holt's political career was to end where it started, for he died of cancer while in office, on February 8, 1955 at age 49. He was interred in Macpelah Cemetery in Weston, West Virginia.[1]


Holt's widow, Helen F. Holt, filled Holt's unexpired term in the West Virginia House of Delegates (1955–1957). She was then appointed Secretary of State, serving from 1957 to 1959, becoming the first woman to hold high office in West Virginia.[5]

His son, Rush D. Holt, Jr., is currently a U.S. Representative from New Jersey.


  • "Richard C. Hunter.

External links

Preceded by
Henry D. Hatfield
United States Senator (Class 1) from West Virginia
Served alongside: Matthew M. Neely
Succeeded by
Harley M. Kilgore

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