GEORGE WESLEY ATKINSON was born near Charleston, West Virginia. He received an A.B. degree from Ohio Wesleyan University and an M.A. in 1873. He went on to obtain a law degree from Howard University in Washington, DC, a Ph.D. pro merito from Mount Union College in Alliance, Ohio, 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. After serving on Charleston’s School Board and as the city’s Postmaster in the late 1860s and early 1870s, he began the practice of law and moved to Wheeling, where he became editor of the Wheeling Standard in 1877. He also served as an internal revenue agent of the Treasury Department and U.S. Marshal for the District of West Virginia, after which he won a term in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1890 to 1891. He returned to the practice of law and to the newspaper business as editor of the West Virginia Journal from 1891 to 1896 before becoming the first Republican in nearly thirty years to be elected governor. After serving one term, he became U.S. District Attorney for the southern District of West Virginia and later Associate Judge of the Court of Claims in Washington, DC. Atkinson also authored numerous works, including History of Kanawha County (1876) and Prominent Men of West Virginia (1895).
Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 4. Westport, CT: Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.
The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. 12. New York: James T. White & Company.