Back to former West Virginia governors
John Davison Rockefeller
West Virginia

Gov. John Davison Rockefeller

  • January 17, 1977 - January 14, 1985
  • Democratic
  • June 18, 1937
  • New York
  • Harvard University; Yale University
  • Married Sharon Percy; four children
  • Senator


JOHN “JAY” DAVISON ROCKEFELLER was born in New York City. He graduated from Harvard in 1961 with a degree in Japanese and Far Eastern affairs and languages. He also attended the International Christian University in Tokyo and studied Chinese language at Yale University. He went on to serve as a member of the National Advisory Council of the Peace Corps in 1961 and as special assistant to the Peace Corps director in 1962, after which he worked at the State Department in the area of Far Eastern Affairs. Rockefeller’s employment with the President’s Commission on Juvenile Delinquency and Youth Crime took him to West Virginia in 1964, where he later worked directly with Action for Appalachian Youth, a West Virginia antipoverty program. He was elected to the West Virginia House of Delegates in 1966 and to a four-year term as West Virginia secretary of state in 1968. After one unsuccessful bid for governor in 1972, he was elected in 1976 and reelected in 1980. During his tenure, he chaired the 1978 White House Conference on Balanced Growth and the President’s Commission on Coal. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1984 and has been reelected to three additional terms. As Senator, he was a passionate advocate for coal miners—particularly with respect to health care, and co-authored of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), which has provided health care coverage for more than one million children nationally. He has also led a number of Project Harvest trade missions, which have introduced West Virginia businesses to Japan and Taiwan. Rockefeller declined to run for re-election to the Senate in 2014.


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.

Governors of the American States, Commonwealths and Territories, National Governors’ Conference, 1983.

U.S. Senator for West Virginia

West Virginia Archives

Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress

Recent West Virginia Governors