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Harley Orrin Staggers

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Title: Harley Orrin Staggers  
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Subject: John Dingell, Cleve Benedict, Emory and Henry College alumni, West Virginian (Amtrak train), Removal of cannabis from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act
Collection: 1907 Births, 1991 Deaths, American Methodists, American Military Personnel of World War II, Democratic Party Members of the United States House of Representatives, Duke University Alumni, Educators from West Virginia, Emory and Henry College Alumni, Members of the United States House of Representatives from West Virginia, People from Keyser, West Virginia, Staggers Family of West Virginia, United States Navy Personnel, West Virginia Democrats
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Harley Orrin Staggers

Harley Orrin Staggers
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from West Virginia's 2nd district
In office
January 3, 1949 – January 3, 1981
Preceded by Melvin C. Snyder
Succeeded by Cleve Benedict
Personal details
Born (1907-08-03)August 3, 1907
Keyser, West Virginia
Died August 20, 1991(1991-08-20) (aged 84)
Cumberland, Maryland
Nationality American
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Mary Casey Staggers
Children Margaret Anne Staggers
Mary Kaye Staggers
Frances Susan Tasker
Elizabeth Ellen Shank
Harley O. Staggers, Jr.
Daniel Staggers
Alma mater Emory and Henry College
Occupation Teacher
Religion Methodist

Harley Orrin Staggers, Sr. (August 3, 1907 – August 20, 1991) was a Democratic U.S. Representative from West Virginia (2nd District) from 1949 to 1981.


  • Career 1
  • First Amendment 2
  • Illegal drugs in sports 3
  • Legacy 4
  • Children 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


Staggers was born in Keyser, Mineral County, West Virginia, and graduated from Emory and Henry College in 1931 and did graduate work at Duke University.

A whistle stop train tour in Keyser, West Virginia, in 1948. From left to right: President Harry S. Truman at the microphone, Congressional candidate Harley Orrin Staggers, and U.S. Senator Harley M. Kilgore.

Staggers served in the United States Navy during World War II. He was U.S. Representative from West Virginia (2nd District) from 1949 to 1981, and served as Chairman of the House Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce. He was delegate to the Democratic National Convention from West Virginia in 1960. He died on August 20, 1991.

First Amendment

On June 10, 1971, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Nixon Administration could not block The New York Times from publishing the Pentagon Papers. The next month, on July 12, 1971, Staggers ordered CBS News to hand over film not used in the documentary, Selling of the Pentagon.

According to Staggers this was the only way to know if the documentary had been accurately edited. The president of CBS News, Frank Stanton, said he would go to jail before complying with Staggers' subpoenas. The House supported Stanton and Staggers was forced to abandon his ultimatum.

In 1973, Staggers heard on the radio the John Lennon song "Working Class Hero" — which includes the lines "'Til you're so fucking crazy you can't follow their rules" and "But you're still fucking peasants as far as I can see" — on WGTB and lodged a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).[1] The manager of the station, Ken Sleeman, faced a year in prison and a $10,000 fine, but defended his decision to play the song saying, "The People of Washington, DC are sophisticated enough to accept the occasional four-letter word in context, and not become sexually aroused, offended, or upset." The charges were dropped.[2]

Illegal drugs in sports

On May 11, 1973 the House Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce which was chaired by Staggers issued a press release[3] summarizing the results of an investigation that determined illegal drug use existed in all level of sports. The investigation also described the degree of use, including steroids and amphetamines, as alarming.


Nationally, his name is perhaps best known as for the federal Staggers Act of 1980, which allowed for enormous deregulation of the railroads, such as allowing carriers to enter into contracts with shippers to set prices and services, without Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) approval. The Staggers Act is widely credited with freeing the industry from stagnation under an outdated regulatory structure, allowing it more freedom to compete with other modes of freight transportation such as trucking and air transport. Under the provisions of the Staggers Act, the former regulatory model which had contributed extensively to the massive financial failure of the Penn Central Railroad in the 1970s (forcing the creation of Conrail, which in the beginning was also losing money) was largely rendered impotent. With new market freedoms, the Staggers Act led the railroad industry into a period of much greater stability and profitability, and in many cases, defied opponents' predictions of higher shipping costs. Perhaps even to the amazement of supporters of the Staggers Act, Conrail became a profitable company, repaid its massive federal debts, and was soon a highly desired acquisition target by other large railroad companies, with its lines eventually being sold at a premium to a combination of CSX Corporation and Norfolk Southern interests, preserving competition even as this was accomplished.

Representative Staggers was also a strong supporter of the federally created passenger railroad Amtrak, which did not achieve the potential goal of self-sufficiency. However, creation of Amtrak freed the freight railroad industry from a massive burden of passenger service related-losses and helped preserve a national rail passenger system for the United States, providing some alternatives to an aging Interstate Highway System.

The town and surviving family of Staggers honored him by naming the section of Water Street that runs beside New Creek, in front of the middle school and vocational center, and in front of the bridge to his residence, Harley O. Staggers, Sr. Drive.


Staggers' daughter, Mary Kaye Staggers, was a professor at Morgantown.

See also


  1. ^ Raz, Guy (29 January 1999). "Radio Free Georgetown".  
  2. ^ Blecha, Peter (2004). Taboo Tunes: A History of Banned Bands & Censored Songs. Backbeat Books. pp. 160–161.  
  3. ^

External links

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Melvin C. Snyder
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from West Virginia's 2nd congressional district

Succeeded by
Cleve Benedict
Political offices
Preceded by
Oren Harris
Chairman of the House Interstate and Foreign Commerce Committee
Succeeded by
John Dingell
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