The West Virginia Governor Discovered Working as a Taxi Cab Driver

    Photo courtesy: Roger W
    Downtown Chicago, 1970s. Photo courtesy: Roger W

    Life can be a funny thing.  One day you can be just another soldier fighting in a World War and a decade later, you can be serving as Governor of the State of West Virginia… and five years after that, you can be quietly driving a taxi in downtown Chicago.

    Such is the incredible story of West Virginia’s 24th Governor, William Casey Marland.

    Marland, an Illinois-born Democrat, moved to Wyoming County, West Virginia, when he was seven-years-old, when his father found a job in the Appalachian coalfields.

    At the outbreak of World War II, Marland served as a Navy lieutenant in the Pacific theater, completing four tours.

    A star football player at the University of Alabama, he went on to earn a law degree from West Virginia University in 1947.  He and his wife had four children.

    In December 1949, Marland was appointed to serve as West Virginia’s Attorney General and the following November, he earned the seat in an election.

    Two years later, the Wyoming County son resigned from his post in order to successfully run for the office of Governor – beating out former Senator Rush Holt by slightly more than 3% of the vote in the 1952 gubernatorial race and became the 24th Governor of West Virginia.

    Breaking ranks with most Southern Democrats, Marland advocated for the desegregation of the state’s schools.

    Additionally, the Governor worked to expand the state parks and other recreational facilities, improved unemployment and workers’ compensation laws, and helped to establish an industrial development program.

    While governor, he ran in the special election for the vacant U.S. Senator seat, but lost to former Senator William Chapman Revercomb.

    Unfortunately, Marland’s tenure as governor was marred by accusations of the World War II veteran being a heavy drinker and political opponents seized the opportunity, going so far as to accuse him of drinking at inappropriate times during the day.

    In January 1957, Marland left office as Governor and prepared to seek the Democratic nomination in another special Senate election, but lost to Representative Jennings Randolph.

    With his political career seemingly dead, the former governor worked as an attorney before relocating to the Chicago area to quietly drift out of the public’s eye altogether.

    Over the next several years, the former governor, now content to live a simple life, focused on overcoming his alcoholism.

    By the early-1960s, the ex-governor had successfully given up drinking and found a job working as a taxi cab driver in downtown Chicago.

    By 1965, however, some three years after he had first been hired, he was recognized by a Chicago Daily News reporter.

    Marland confirmed that he had been working as a taxicab driver since August 1962 and the Daily News published the exclusive story on March 12, 1965, with the wire services following up on March 13, 1965. The story received great attention nationally.

    Knowing that the story was about to break and concerned about damage to his family, he called a press conference and spoke candidly about his alcoholism, how he overcame it, and his reasons for driving a taxi: to hold in check a level of ambition that may have contributed to his drinking.

    Impressed by his candor, the former governor found favor in the eyes of the nation and he was soon invited to appear on Jack Paar’s television talk show.

    In a matter of weeks, Marland had been hired to run a West Virginia horse racing concern.

    Sadly, only a handful of months later, the former West Virginia governor was dead, after having been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in his Barrington, Illinois, home.  At the time of his death, he was attended by his wife, children, other relatives, and family friends, on November 26, 1965. His widow followed him in death twelve years later.

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