Thursday, April 6, 2017

Leoma Ord Curtis (1879-1946)

From the Charleston Daily Telegram, February 11, 1937.

   The Mountain State yields another strange name political figure in Leoma Ord Curtis, a one-term member of the West Virginia Senate from Roane County. Listed by many sources under the initials "L.O. Curtis", a fair amount of digging had to be done to discover Curtis' full name! Thankfully, his 1942 draft registration card revealed his full name of "Leoma Ord", putting to rest the mystery!
   Born on September 7, 1879 in Roane County, Leoma Ord "L.O." Curtis was the son of Nathaniel and Sarah (Lucas) Curtis. Little information exists in regards to Curtis' education or early life, excepting notice of his marriage on August 21, 1905, to Sarah Virginia Ingram (1885-1969), to whom he was wed until his death. The couple would have three children, Helen Virginia (1909-1986),  Hal Lorimer (1906-1951) and Elizabeth Anne (1918-1922).  
   L.O. Curtis first entered into government service in the late 1900s, being named as a clerk for the West Virginia House of Delegates committee on Private Corporations and Joint Stock Companies. He later succeeded to the post of clerk with the Roane County Circuit Court, serving in that capacity until 1921, when he began a twelve-year tenure as chief clerk in the office of the West Virginia State Auditor
   In April 1934 Curtis announced that he'd be seeking the Republican nomination for state senator from West Virginia's 4th district. Hoping to succeed senator Charles Weissenburger, Curtis won the Senate election that November and took his seat at the start of the 1935-37 session. 

From the May 15, 1935 Charleston Gazette.

   Curtis' tenure in the Senate saw him sit on the following committees: the Judiciary, Temperance, Agriculture, Public Printing, Forestry and Conservation, Labor and Federal Relations. In February 1937 Curtis launched an attack against then-President Franklin Roosevelt's court-packing plan, authoring a resolution taking the president to task for attempting to "circumvent legal and constitutional rights which have been guaranteed to the people for their safety and welfare." Curtis's resolution would further note that:
"It is a matter of common knowledge that the purpose of reorganization of the kind proposed is not to strengthen the court but rather to insure a favorable action upon a type of legislation which heretofore has been held unconstitutional."
From the February 15, 1935 Charleston Gazette.

   A year after the conclusion of his Senate term L.O. Curtis entered into the post of clerk with the geological department of the United Fuel Gas Company in Raleigh. He continued in their employ for eight years, and in the latter portion of his life was reported to have "been in bad health for some time." This state of ill health later led Curtis to take his own life via gunshot in the washroom of the Atlas building in Raleigh on March 14, 1946. In a Raleigh Register report on the incident, Curtis was 
"observed to remove his glasses shortly after 11 a.m and go to the washroom whence a shot rang out. The body, a pistol beside it, was found by a fellow employee who rushed to the scene."
  Curtis' spectacles, wallet and other personal effects were subsequently found on his desk, as well as note addressed to his wife. He was survived by his wife and children and following funeral arrangements was interred at the Sunset Memorial Park in South Charleston, West Virginia.

From the Charleston Gazette, March 16, 1946

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