L.M. Lafollette, from the Charleston Daily Mail, Aug. 1, 1950.
Longtime West Virginia public servant Latelle McKee "L.M." Lafollette made great strides in a number of different vocations during a life that extended over ninety years. A practicing attorney for over half a century, LaFollette served eight years as prosecuting attorney for Taylor County, West Virginia and in 1896 entered upon duties as West Virginia State Auditor. Despite having little in the way of information available on his life, an obituary for LaFollette (featured in the Charleston Daily Mail a few days following his death in 1950) came as a welcome surprise and fielded a good majority of the following article. The rare portrait of him above was also featured in that obituary.
A resident of the "Mountain State" for nearly all his life, Latelle M. Lafollette's birth occurred on August 13, 1858 in Cacapon Springs, Hampshire County, Virginia, being the son of Henry William and Amy Caroline McKee Lafollette. Several years following his birth, Latelle and his family removed to Flemington in Taylor County, West Virginia where he would attend public school, and he would continue his schooling at the West Virginia College, a now-defunct college once located near Flemington.
During his youth, LaFollette taught school for a time in Barbour County and would later take work as a "civil engineer, and in this occupation he spent two years in the far west." Following his return to West Virginia LaFollette became employed as a deputy tax collector in the cities of Wheeling and Grafton. He began reading law during this time and after being admitted to the bar in 1885 joined the firm of the attorney he had studied under, Samuel P. McCormick.
Based in Grafton, the firm of McCormick and LaFollette continued until LaFollette was named as deputy prosecuting attorney of Taylor County. In 1888 he took office as Prosecuting Attorney, continuing in that post until 1896, and in November of that year won election as State Auditor of West Virginia. He would hold that post from 1897-1901 and after leaving office remained in the state capital of Charleston to continue with his law practice. During his term LaFollette had married on December 20, 1899 to Clara Meldrum DeArmond (1875-1912), with whom he would have four children: Latelle McKee (1902-1981), Robert Brille (1905-1976), James Alexander (1907-1958) and an infant son who died in 1901.
In the succeeding years, LaFollette would become a prominent fixture in West Virginia's capital city, being one of the charter members of the West Virginia Bar Association. A founding organizer of the Capital City Bank of Charleston, LaFollette continued his banking interests with both the Wood County Bank in Parkersburg and the Grafton Bank. During the early 20th century he would begin a lengthy connection with "coal, oil, timber and gas" businesses and is recorded in his Daily Mail obituary as having had "wide holdings in these fields."
Latelle M. LaFollette celebrated his 90th birthday in 1948 and was two weeks short of his 92nd birthday when he died on July 31, 1950. He was survived by three sons and was later interred alongside his wife at the Sunset Memorial Park in South Charleston, West Virginia.
LaFollette's obituary form the Aug. 1, 1950 Charleston Daily Mail.
Latelle M. LaFollette, from the June 6, 1940 Sportsmen's Review.
Public service continued in the LaFollete family in the person of Latelle McKee LaFollette Jr, the son of the preceding gentleman. A member of the West Virginia House of Delegates for one term in the mid 1940s, LaFollette was later an unsuccessful aspirant for the West Virginia State Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives.
Born on July 6, 1902, Latelle LaFollette followed in his father's stead and practiced law for many years. He would marry Thelma Hatfield (1902-1987) in 1928 and during the succeeding years gained press not only in politics but also as a trapshooter, winning the "singles state championship of West Virginia" in September 1947. Elected to represent Kanawha County in the House of Delegates in November 1942, LaFollette served during the 1943-45 session and was an unsuccessful candidate for reelection to that body in 1948.
In 1952 he became the Republican nominee for the U.S. House of Representatives for the Sixth Congressional district of West Virginia and in that year's contest faced off against future U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd (1917-2009), later to gain distinction as the longest serving Senator in American history. On election day it was Byrd who coasted to victory, besting LaFollette by nearly 10,000 votes, 23, 222 to 13, 465.
Following his defeat in 1952 LaFollette would run two further candidacies, one for the state senate in 1958 and another for Congress in 1960. In the 1960 congressional race in West Virginia's 5th district LaFollette was defeated by incumbent representative Elizabeth Kee (1895-1975) by a wide margin, 77,524 votes to 34,052. In May 1981 Latelle LaFollette Jr. died at age 78. Both he and his wife were interred in the LaFollette family plot at the Sunset Memorial Park in South Charleston.