Harley Orin Staggers

Class of 1931

Born at Keyser in Mineral County, West Virginia, Harley Staggers became the patriarch of one of the most prominent political families in the Mountain State. Staggers graduated from Emory & Henry in 1931, pursued graduate studies at Duke University, and then taught and coached football in Virginia and West Virginia.

He served as Sheriff of Mineral County, West Virginia, and in 1942 became State Director of the Office of War Information Services. Following outstanding service from 1942–1946 in the U.S. Naval Air Corps, Harley Staggers was elected to represent West Virginia in the U.S. House of Representatives in November 1948.

He was subsequently re-elected to the U.S. House fifteen times, retiring in 1981. During a distinguished career that spanned three decades of American history, Staggers served as Chairman of the House Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce. On October 14, 1980 President Carter signed into law The Staggers Rail Act to de-regulate the American railroads and replace the outdated structure that had governed pricing and rail shipping in America since passage of the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887. This landmark legislation made it possible for American railroads to survive as private industries, and laid the foundation for the systems of domestic and international trade and shipping critical to the nation’s economy.

The crowning achievement of his congressional career, the Staggers Rail Act honors Harley Orin Staggers as one of the great visionaries in 20th century American transportation.


west virginia