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Edgar Parks Rucker
A black and white portrait of a bearded man, wearing a suit with a bowtie
Portrait of Rucker, published in 1905
12th Attorney General of West Virginia

In office
March 4, 1897 – March 3, 1901[1]
Governor George W. Atkinson
Preceded by Thomas S. Riley
Succeeded by Romeo H. Freer
Personal details
Born (1861-12-23)December 23, 1861
Covington, Virginia, U.S.
Died April 21, 1908(1908-04-21) (aged 46)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Resting place Old Stone Church Cemetery, Lewisburg, West Virginia, U.S.
Citizenship United States
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Maude Applegate Rucker
Relations William W. Rucker (brother)
Children Margaret Clarke Rucker
Parents William Parks Rucker (father)
Margaret Ann Scott Rucker (mother)
Alma mater West Virginia University
Department of Law (LL.B.)
Profession Lawyer, politician, and businessperson

Edgar Parks Rucker (December 23, 1861 – April 21, 1908) was an American lawyer, politician, and businessman, in the U.S. state of West Virginia. A Republican, Rucker served as the 12th attorney general of West Virginia from March 4, 1897 until March 3, 1901.

Rucker was born in Covington, Virginia, in 1861, and was raised in Lewisburg, West Virginia, where he attended school at Lewisburg Academy. He was briefly a schoolteacher in Greenbrier County public schools, then earned a Bachelor of Laws from West Virginia University's Department of Law in 1887. He returned to Lewisburg and practiced law with his father William Parks Rucker. In July 1887, Rucker engaged in a duel with Lewisburg deputy postmaster Bedford Beirne, which resulted in serious injuries to Beirne. Rucker relocated to Princeton, where he practiced law for three years, then to Bramwell, where he was editor of the Flat Top Monitor. He then moved to Welch, and established a law firm where he served as senior partner with Benjamin Franklin Keller among his firm's partners.

Rucker unsuccessfully ran for the 8th Senate district seat in 1888 and for the 3rd congressional district seat in 1892. He served on the West Virginia University board of regents from 1895 to 1897. In 1896, Rucker was elected state attorney general, and during his tenure, his office was involved with cases resulting in increased tax revenue for the state. In addition to his political career, Rucker served as an incorporator and the president of several companies in Welch. Rucker suffered poor health in his later years, and he died in 1908 following surgery in Washington, D.C.

Early life and education

Edgar Parks Rucker was born in Covington, Virginia, on December 23, 1861, during the early period of the American Civil War.[2][3][4] He was the youngest of four sons of William Parks Rucker and Margaret Scott Rucker.[4][5][6] Rucker's three older brothers were Hedley Scott Rucker; William Waller Rucker, U.S. Representative from Missouri; and James Thomas Rucker.[5][7][8] During his early years, Rucker and his family relocated to Lewisburg in Greenbrier County,[2][3][9] where he attended Lewisburg Academy.[4] In his early adulthood, Rucker was a schoolteacher in the Greenbrier County public schools.[10] He then attended and completed a course in West Virginia University's Department of Law, where he won a prize for his essay entitled "The Works and Age of Milton,"[11] and graduated with a Bachelor of Laws in 1887.[2][3][4]

Law career

Immediately following his graduation, Rucker returned to Lewisburg, where he practiced law with his father.[3][4][10] In July 1887, Rucker engaged in a duel with Lewisburg deputy postmaster Bedford Beirne, in which Rucker shot and seriously injured Beirne.[12][13][14] The duel occurred after Beirne allegedly insulted Rucker.[14][15][16] Rucker fired the first shot, breaking Beirne's wrist,[15][16] and then both men fired at each other, and Beirne was shot in the chest.[14][15][16] Rucker was arrested and bailed out of jail after the duel.[16][17] However, when Beirne's condition worsened, Rucker was rearrested and jailed.[16][17]

After his marriage to Maude Applegate in January 1888, Rucker and his wife relocated to Princeton, where he practiced law for three years.[3][4][10] On September 3, 1890, he was commissioned a first lieutenant in the West Virginia National Guard's 2nd Regiment, Company A, which was organized and mustered into service in Princeton.[18] In 1892, Rucker then moved to Bramwell within the burgeoning Pocahontas Coalfield region, where he remained for one year and served as the editor of the Flat Top Monitor, a Republican newspaper.[10][19]

Rucker and his family then moved to Welch in 1893,[2][3][20] after the city became the county seat of McDowell County in 1892,[4] and Rucker established a law practice there.[4][10] Rucker served as the senior partner of his law firm, which initially consisted of Benjamin Franklin Keller and James L. Hamill, and was known as Rucker, Keller, and Hamill.[10] This partnership lasted until 1898, after which, Rucker was joined by other law partners over time, to include Luther C. Anderson, William Wellington Hughes, and Daniel J. F. Strother.[4][8][20][lower-alpha 1]

Political and government career

Rucker took an interest in politics[21] and was active in West Virginia's Republican Party.[2][3][4] In 1888, he unsuccessfully ran as their candidate for the 8th district of the West Virginia Senate,[3][21] losing by 403 votes.[22] Due to his young age, he became known as "the boy candidate."[22] In June 1892, the Republicans of West Virginia's 3rd congressional district met in Montgomery, and selected Rucker as their candidate for the district's congressional seat.[23][24] However, he lost the November election against Democratic incumbent John D. Alderson.[2][3][21] Rucker served on the West Virginia University board of regents for a two-year term from 1895 until June 1, 1897.[25][26] In February 1897, Rucker joined regents in advocating for appropriations from the West Virginia Legislature for a new building to accommodate the increased enrollment at West Virginia University.[27]

Attorney general

In June and July 1896, Rucker was endorsed by McDowell County Republican Conventions as their candidate for Republican nominee for West Virginia attorney general.[28][29] On July 23, 1896, he was formally nominated as the Republican candidate for attorney general at the state convention in Parkersburg,[30] and in November, he ran for election against Democratic incumbent, Thomas S. Riley.[31] On January 14, 1897, the West Virginia Legislature convened a joint assembly to canvass the returns of the 1896 election, and declared Rucker the 12th attorney general-elect with 105,432 votes to incumbent Riley's 94,060 votes.[32]

Rucker commenced his tenure as attorney general on March 4, 1897.[1][33][34] At the start of his term, he was directed by the West Virginia Board of Public Works to represent the state in the case "Error: no |title= specified when using {{Cite web}}". , and appeared before the U.S. Supreme Court alongside his predecessors Riley and Thayer Melvin.[35][36] The court decided in favor of West Virginia in November 1898, ruling that the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railroad and other railroad companies were required to pay taxes on their bridges across the Ohio River to the state of West Virginia.[35][36] The taxable amount of the railroad bridge in question at Steubenville alone was $3,060 per year, with back taxes owed to West Virginia for four years, totaling $12,240 (equivalent to $22,898 in 2022).[35][36] Also during Rucker's term, the case Maryland v. West Virginia was ongoing,[35] in which Maryland claimed the South Branch Potomac River as its true southern boundary, and not the North Branch Potomac River.[37]

In September 1897, Rucker went to Keystone to intervene in a mob intending to lynch Tom Major, who was being held in jail in connection with the murder of special officer Newt Hines.[38] Rucker and local officials successfully transported Major via freight engine from Keystone to the Welch jail to ensure his safety and avoid a race riot.[38] In October 1897, Rucker's office was also involved in the prosecution of the "Wheeling whiskey cases," in response to Wheeling saloonkeepers banding together to resist payment of state license taxes to sell whiskey.[35] At that time, the saloonkeepers paid for licenses to sell beer and wine, which were $100 per year (equivalent to $22,898 in 2022), but continued to sell whiskey without paying for the annual $350-dollar license fee (equivalent to $22,898 in 2022).[35] Rucker went to Wheeling and assisted Ohio County prosecuting attorney W. C. Meyer in instituting proceedings against the saloonkeepers violating state law.[39] Ohio County made more than 1,700 indictments; however, Rucker and Meyer procured injunctions against the most prominent violators, which resulted in those saloonkeepers agreeing to pay the full license tax and resulting in West Virginia recovering $18,000 in taxes (equivalent to $22,898 in 2022).[40] Rucker served as attorney general until March 3, 1901.[1][33][34]

Business career

Black and white photograph view of buildings in downtown Welch, West Virginia, in 1915.

Downtown Welch, 1915

Rucker served as the president of several companies, to include the Margaret Mining Company, the Hensley (or Hursley) Coal Company, the Merrimac Coal and Coke Company, the Slick Rock Coal Company, and the Welch Lumber Company.[2][41] He also served as a director of the McDowell County Bank and a number of other corporations.[2] In June 1896, Rucker was an incorporator of the McDowell Publishing Company in Welch, which was chartered for the purpose of publishing a newspaper and book printing.[42] In October 1899, Rucker was an incorporator of the C. L. Ritter Lumber Company of Welch.[43] In March 1905, Rucker was among several representatives of West Virginia's coal industry who met with Governor William M. O. Dawson and state tax commissioner Charles W. Dillon to protest a state law that taxed coal, oil, and gas leases as personal property.[44]

Personal life

Marriage and children

Rucker married Maude Applegate of Keytesville, Missouri, on January 11, 1888, at the residence of her uncle L. M. Applegate near Keytesville, in a "quiet and unpretentious affair," according to the Chariton Courier.[21][41][45] Rucker and his wife had one daughter, Margaret Clarke Rucker.[8][21][41] Rucker's daughter Margaret was born in Princeton on November 4, 1890, and married on June 12, 1916, to Edward Robert Shannon Jr.[41] She and Edward had one daughter, Margaret "Peggy" Rucker Shannon, born July 6, 1917, in Cincinnati.[41]

Organizational memberships

Rucker served as president of the West Virginia League of Republican Clubs in 1894.[46] He was a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.[2] Rucker was an active member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South,[2][4][20] where he worked to secure a new building for his congregation and served as a delegate to the Methodist General Conference of 1902.[4][20]

Later life and death

Black and white photograph of a stone church, adjacent to a graveyard

Old Stone Church cemetery in Lewisburg

Rucker's final years were dedicated to his law practice and his businesses in Welch.[21] News reports in 1903 and 1904 noted Rucker's poor health.[7][47] He remained ill, and for three years, he consulted specialists for a cure.[20] In April 1908, Rucker underwent surgery at Episcopal Hospital in Washington, D.C. to remove a malignant polyp from his nose, which had caused partial loss in eyesight.[8][9][48] He died following complications from the operation at 5 p.m. on April 21, 1908.[8][9][48] Rucker was buried at the Old Stone Church cemetery in Lewisburg.[41]

Following Rucker's death, his wife and daughter relocated to Cincinnati.[49] At the West Virginia Republican Party's 6th Senate district meeting at Keystone, in August 1908, a resolution was passed expressing sorrow at Rucker's death.[50] Former Governor George W. Atkinson remarked of Rucker in his Bench and Bar of West Virginia (1919), "General Rucker was an unusually brilliant and successful lawyer. Always intensely active, wholly devoted to the interests of his clients, ever resourceful, particularly in an emergency, a fine orator, a born leader of men, he was a good lawyer and a splendid gentleman."[49]

Explanatory notes

  1. Rucker's law firm was variously known as Rucker, Keller, and Hamill; Rucker and Oldfield; Rucker, Anderson, and Hughes; and Rucker, Anderson, Strother, and Hughes.[8][10][20]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Harris 1916, p. 378.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 2.9 Murphy 1905, p. 47.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8 West Virginia University 1901, p. 30.
  4. 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 4.11 Atkinson 1919, p. 252.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Atlantic Publishing and Engraving Company 1894, pp. 165–166.
  6. "Rucker". Keytesville, Missouri. January 13, 1905. p. 1. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 "Mr. and Mrs. Edgar P. Rucker". Keytesville, Missouri. June 10, 1904. p. 5. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 "Death's Decree". Keytesville, Missouri. April 24, 1908. p. 3. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 "Edgar P. Rucker Passes Away". Fairmont, West Virginia. April 22, 1908. p. 1. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 10.5 10.6 McCamic 1909, p. 182.
  11. "We learn from the Greenbrier (W. Va.,) Independent". Keytesville, Missouri. June 30, 1887. p. 2. 
  12. "On the 8th instant". Staunton, Virginia. July 13, 1887. p. 2. 
  13. "Duell ohne Sekundanten" (in German). Baltimore, Maryland. July 12, 1887. p. 4. 
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 "On the 9th Mr. Bedford Beirne". Staunton, Virginia. July 14, 1887. p. 3. 
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 "Shooting of Deputy Postmaster Beirne". Baltimore, Maryland. July 11, 1887. p. 5. 
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 16.4 "That Shooting Affray". Wheeling, West Virginia. July 15, 1887. p. 4. 
  17. 17.0 17.1 "Mr. Beirne in a Dangerous Condition". Baltimore, Maryland. July 12, 1887. p. 4. 
  18. State of West Virginia Adjutant General's Office 1891, pp. 12, 38.
  19. "Announcements". Kingwood, West Virginia. July 7, 1892. p. 2. 
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 20.3 20.4 20.5 "Prominent Attorney Answers Last Summons". Tazewell, Virginia. April 30, 1908. p. 1. 
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 21.3 21.4 21.5 McCamic 1909, p. 183.
  22. 22.0 22.1 Atlantic Publishing and Engraving Company 1894, p. 166.
  23. "Third District Republicans". Wheeling, West Virginia. June 24, 1892. p. 6. 
  24. "The Republicans of the third congressional district of West Virginia". Martinsburg, West Virginia. June 25, 1892. p. 2. 
  25. West Virginia University 1896, p. 1.
  26. West Virginia University 1897, p. 3.
  27. "Narrowest Partisanship". Wheeling, West Virginia. February 12, 1897. p. 1. 
  28. "McDowell County Republicans". Wheeling, West Virginia. June 10, 1896. p. 6. 
  29. "Instructed for Rucker". Wheeling, West Virginia. July 11, 1894. p. 5. 
  30. "Many Wounds to Heal". Wheeling, West Virginia. July 24, 1896. p. 1. 
  31. "I, V. M. Poling, Clerk of the Circuit Court of Hampshire County, West Virginia, certify that the following is a true copy of the nominations certified to and filed with me in my office.". Romney, West Virginia. October 22, 1896. p. 3. 
  32. "The Legislature. The Election Returns Canvassed and the Returns Officially Declared". Wheeling, West Virginia. January 15, 1897. p. 1. 
  33. 33.0 33.1 Lewis 1912, p. 407.
  34. 34.0 34.1 "Roster of State and County Officers". Lewisburg, West Virginia. July 21, 1916. p. 16. 
  35. 35.0 35.1 35.2 35.3 35.4 35.5 Rucker 1899, p. 4.
  36. 36.0 36.1 36.2 Legal Information Institute (2022). "PITTSBURGH, C., C. & ST. L. RY. CO. v. BOARD OF PUBLIC WORKS OF WEST VIRGINIA". Ithaca, New York: Cornell Law School. 
  37. Legal Information Institute (2022). "STATE OF MARYLAND, Complainant, v. STATE OF WEST VIRGINIA". Ithaca, New York: Cornell Law School. 
  38. 38.0 38.1 "Narrow Escape". Wheeling, West Virginia. September 28, 1897. p. 1. 
  39. Rucker 1899, p. 5.
  40. Rucker 1899, pp. 5–6.
  41. 41.0 41.1 41.2 41.3 41.4 41.5 Wood 1932, p. 87.
  42. "A New Publishing Company". Wheeling, West Virginia. June 29, 1896. p. 1. 
  43. "Charter Issued". Wheeling, West Virginia. October 26, 1899. p. 6. 
  44. "Coal Men Protest". Fairmont, West Virginia. March 29, 1905. p. 1. 
  45. "At the residence of the bride's uncle". Keytesville, Missouri. January 12, 1888. p. 3. 
  46. "The Fight Is Now On". Wheeling, West Virginia. June 19, 1894. p. 1. 
  47. "Town and County News". Tazewell, Virginia. May 7, 1903. p. 4. 
  48. 48.0 48.1 "Mr. Rucker Dies Suddenly On Table". Clarksburg, West Virginia. April 23, 1908. p. 1. 
  49. 49.0 49.1 Atkinson 1919, p. 253.
  50. "Opens Campaign". Clarksburg, West Virginia. August 20, 1908. p. 2. 


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