|By Bob Weaver 1999|
He is perhaps Calhoun's most famous politician, serving nine terms in the U.S. Congress.
His roots he never
forgot. He was always coming back and connecting with his friends.
Mollohan was a consummate politician,
learning his skills early in the heyday of Calhoun politics. The
skills came natural to him. He was outgoing,
humorous, warm and loyal.
His son, Congressman Alan Mollohan, is
his most important political legacy, although
he will be remembered in Calhoun for his old-style political ways,
where he helped people when they needed it and
the building of alliances within families and constituents - the
powerful connection of trading favors.
He would do
what he said and he stuck with his friends. Certainly, over many years
he had his foes and detractors, even here in
Born in Grantsville, he was the the son of Robert
Perry and Edith Witte Mollohan. His roots go
back to Minnora, Washington District.
His grandfather, Perry Mollohan
(1845-1898), engaged in farming and
started the first general store on the West Fork with R. J. Chenoweth,
and his great-grandfather, Nathan Mollohan
(1812-1875) was an earlier settler in Washington Township, owning
5,000 acres in the West Fork region.
Mollohan clan, in the past 150 years, married into other well known
Calhoun families, like Ellison, Boone, Shock,
Huffman, Hamrick, Duffield, Knotts, Boggs, Westfall, Hamilton, Witte,
Jarvis, Stump, and VanHorn, among others.
The Mollohan family history reveals much of the workings of Calhoun
politics during the last century.
father, Robert Perry Mollohan, moved to Grantsville in 1908 and
operated a store, soon to be appointed Deputy
Assessor by Robert J. Knotts in 1910.
He was the youngest Justice of
Peace at age twenty-one to be elected in
West Virginia. He was Calhoun County Clerk from from 1939 until his death
His other son, Ernest Mollohan,
operated the Calhoun Super Service and was President of the first
Calhoun Board of Education.
A young Robert H.
Mollohan had a flair for politics quite early, ringing doorbells in
Grantsville to get out the vote, later becoming a
Precinct Captain at age twenty-three. He married Helen Holt of Gilmer
County and began his public service
Which includes Internal Revenue Service, 1933-38; District
Manager for the WPA, becoming an associate
of Sen. Mathew Neely, 1939-40; State Director of the 1940 Census; WPA
Administrator 1940-41, during which the
construction of the current Calhoun jail and courthouse was planned;
Superintendent of Industrial School for Boys
at Pruntytown, 1941-48; Mollohan managed Sen. Neely's U.S. Senate
campaign, later to join Neely's staff in
Washington, 1948; Staff Director, Committee of U. S. Senate, 1949-50;
Member of the U.S. House of
Representatives for nine terms starting in 1953 and ending in his
retirement in 1982.
His House career was
interrupted when he ran for Governor against Republican Cecil
Underwood in 1956. Underwood defeated him after
The Charleston Gazette revealed that he took $20,000 and two cars from
a coal operator that stripped land at the
Pruntytown reformatory when he was superintendent.
"Today, it is not
uncommon for candidates for governor to
receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign money from coal
operators, and it's okay," Mollohan said later.
Underwood, who defeated him, received $500,000 of legal donations for
his more recent inaugural.
encountered the infamous Arch A. Moore in another ill-fated bid to get
back into Congress in 1966.
went to prison for his transgressions, after becoming governor.
Mollohan went on to be a successful businessman,
having developed the Ramada Inn in Morgantown among other business
The Charleston Gazette often
badgered him about how he became a millionaire while holding
He was proud that he was
instrumental in helping the Pratt and Whitney Aircraft Service locate
at Bridgeport, and helping pass the
Emergency Medical Services Act.
Although he maintained the firmest of
ties with Calhoun people, often
expressing his gratitude and affection, he was laid to rest at his
wife's family cemetery in Gilmer County.