George W. Atkinson

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George W. Atkinson
Judge G.W. Atkinson.jpg
Judge G.W. Atkinson in judicial robes
Judge of the Court of Claims
In office
April 15, 1905 – April 16, 1916
Appointed byTheodore Roosevelt
Preceded byLawrence Weldon
Succeeded byJames Hay
10th Governor of West Virginia
In office
March 4, 1897 – March 4, 1901
Preceded byWilliam A. MacCorkle
Succeeded byAlbert B. White
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from West Virginia's 1st district
In office
February 26, 1890 – March 3, 1891
Preceded byJohn O. Pendleton
Succeeded byJohn O. Pendleton
Personal details
George Wesley Atkinson

(1845-06-29)June 29, 1845
Charleston, Virginia
DiedApril 4, 1925(1925-04-04) (aged 79)
Charleston, West Virginia
Resting placeSpring Hill Cemetery
Charleston, West Virginia
Political partyRepublican
EducationOhio Wesleyan University
(A.B., A.M.)
Mount Union College
Howard University School of Law (LL.B.)

George Wesley Atkinson (June 29, 1845 – April 4, 1925) was the 10th Governor of West Virginia, a United States Representative from West Virginia and a Judge of the Court of Claims.

Education and career[edit]

Born on June 29, 1845, in Charleston, Kanawha County, Virginia (now West Virginia),[1] Atkinson attended the public schools of Charleston,[2] then received an Artium Baccalaureus degree in 1870 from Ohio Wesleyan University, received an Artium Magister degree in 1873 from the same institution,[1] graduated from Mount Union College in Alliance, Ohio,[2] and received a Bachelor of Laws in 1874 from Howard University School of Law in Washington, D.C.[1] He was the assistant superintendent of public schools for Kanawha County from 1868 to 1870.[1] He was collector of tolls for the Kanawha River Board from 1869 to 1871.[1] He was Postmaster for Charleston from 1871 to 1877.[1] He was admitted to the bar and entered private practice in Charleston from 1875 to 1877,[1] later attending lectures on law at Columbia University.[2] He moved to Wheeling, West Virginia in 1877.[2] He was editor of the Wheeling Standard from 1877 to 1878.[1] He was a revenue agent for the Bureau of Internal Revenue (now the Internal Revenue Service) of the United States Department of the Treasury in Wheeling from 1879 to 1881.[1] He was the United States Marshal for the District of West Virginia from 1881 to 1885.[1]

Congressional service[edit]

Atkinson successfully contested as a Republican the election of United States Representative John O. Pendleton to the United States House of Representatives of the 51st United States Congress from West Virginia's 1st congressional district and served from February 26, 1890, to March 3, 1891.[2] He declined to be a candidate for reelection in 1890.[2]

Later career[edit]

Following his departure from Congress, Atkinson was editor of the West Virginia Journal in Wheeling from 1891 to 1896.[1] He returned to private practice in Wheeling from 1891 to 1896.[1] He was the 10th Governor of West Virginia from 1897 to 1901.[1] He was the United States Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia from 1901 to 1905.[1]

Federal judicial service[edit]

Atkinson received a recess appointment from President Theodore Roosevelt on April 15, 1905, to a seat on the Court of Claims (later the United States Court of Claims) vacated by Judge Lawrence Weldon.[1] He was nominated to the same position by President Roosevelt on December 5, 1905.[1] He was confirmed by the United States Senate on January 16, 1906, and received his commission the same day.[1] His service terminated on April 16, 1916, due to his resignation.[1]

Political activism[edit]

Atkinson remained active in the Republican Party, for instance, supporting the candidacy of T. Gillis Nutter, an African-American attorney from Charleston, for the state legislature in 1918.[3] Nutter won two terms, at a time when he was nearly the only black to occupy statewide office in the South.[3] The former Confederate states had disenfranchised most blacks and many poor whites from changes to state laws raising barriers to voter registration, from 1890 to 1908.[citation needed]


Atkinson died on April 4, 1925, in Charleston.[1] He was interred in Spring Hill Cemetery in Charleston.[2]

Awards and honors[edit]

Atkinson received several honorary degrees, including an LL.D. from U.S. Grant University, an LL.D. from the University of Nashville, and a D.C.L. from West Virginia University.[citation needed]



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s "Atkinson, George Wesley - Federal Judicial Center".
  2. ^ a b c d e f g United States Congress. "George W. Atkinson (id: A000330)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
  3. ^ a b " Men of the Month: Two Negro Legislators," The Crisis, vol. 17, no. 3, whole no. 99 (Jan. 1919), pg. 123.


  • The United States Court of Claims: a history / pt. 1. The judges, 1855–1976 / by Marion T. Bennett / pt. 2. Origin, development, jurisdiction, 1855–1978 / W. Cowen, P. Nichols, M.T. Bennett. Washington, D.C.: Committee on the Bicentennial of Independence and the Constitution of the Judicial Conference of the United States. 1976.
  • "Atkinson, George Wesley - Federal Judicial Center".
Political offices
Preceded by
William A. MacCorkle
10th Governor of West Virginia
Succeeded by
Albert B. White
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
John O. Pendleton
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from West Virginia's 1st congressional district

Succeeded by
John O. Pendleton
Legal offices
Preceded by
Lawrence Weldon
Judge of the Court of Claims
Succeeded by
James Hay