George C. Peery

George Campbell Peery (October 28, 1873 – October 14, 1952) was an American Democratic politician, and was the 52nd governor of Virginia from 1934 to 1938. He became the second governor to be selected, at least partially, by the soon to be very powerful Byrd Organization, led by Senator Harry F. Byrd, Sr.[1]

George Peery
52nd Governor of Virginia
In office
January 18, 1934  January 15, 1938
Preceded byJohn Pollard
Succeeded byJames Price
Chair of the National Governors Association
In office
November 16, 1936  September 14, 1937
Preceded byPaul V. McNutt
Succeeded byRobert Leroy Cochran
Member of the State Corporation Commission
In office
November 29, 1929  April 17, 1933
Preceded byLouis S. Epes
Succeeded byThomas W. Ozlin
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's 9th district
In office
March 4, 1923  March 4, 1929
Preceded byC. Bascom Slemp
Succeeded byJoseph Shaffer
Personal details
George Campbell Peery

(1873-10-28)October 28, 1873
Cedar Bluff, Virginia, U.S.
DiedOctober 14, 1952(1952-10-14) (aged 78)
Richlands, Virginia, U.S.
Resting placeMaplewood Cemetery
37°07′37″N 81°31′11″W
Political partyDemocratic
SpouseNancy Bane Gillespie
EducationEmory and Henry College (BA)
Washington and Lee University (LLB)

Early life and education

Peery was born in Cedar Bluff, in Tazewell County, Virginia, in the far southwest portion of the state. His father, Dr. James Peery, had been a surgeon in Derrick's Battalion of the Confederate States Army. He attended local schools while working on his father's farm and at the family store as well as the Tazewell County Clerk's office. He graduated from Emory & Henry College in 1894, winning medals in oratory and science. Peery then became principal of Tazewell High School for two years, before resigning and traveling to earn his LL.B. degree from Washington & Lee University in 1897 after a single year's study.

In 1907 he married Nancy Bane Gillespie, daughter of a prominent Tazewell attorney, Albert P. Gillespie, and they had three children, Albert G. Peery, George C. Peery, Jr., and Nancy Peery Whitley.


Peery then returned to Southwestern Virginia to practice law, first setting up a practice in Tazewell, but after two years moving across the mountains to Wise, Virginia. he returned to Tazewell in 1915 to settle his father in law's estate and soon joined Gillespie's former partners A.C. Buchanan and Archibald C. Chapman to form Chapman, Peery, and Buchanan. he also began political involvement, chosen as Democratic elector at large on the Wilson-Marshall ticket in 1916 and in 1920 became chairman of the Ninth District Democratic committee.[2]

Peery was elected to the Congress, representing the 9th Congressional district of Virginia in 1922. His victory was considered an early test of the Byrd Organization. Peery served from 1923 to 1929 and was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1920 and 1924.

Peery resigned in 1929 to become a member of the State Corporation Commission, serving from 1929 to 1933. Then newly elected Senator Byrd approached him to run for governor in 1933. Peery accepted and won the November election.

As governor, he created unemployment insurance and, after the repeal of prohibition, he created Virginia's Alcohol Beverage Control board. In 1936, Governor Peery signed into law the act that created the Virginia State Parks.

After his retirement as governor, Peery joined the board of trustees of both Washington and Lee University and Hollins College.

Peery's home in Cedar Bluff, Virginia

Peery died in 1952, at the age of 78, two weeks short of his 79th birthday, in Richlands, Virginia. He was buried in Maplewood Cemetery in Tazewell, Virginia.

Electoral history

1933; Peery was elected Governor of Virginia with 73.74% of the vote, defeating Republican Fred W. McWane, Prohibitionist Andrew J. Dunning, Jr., Socialist George C. White, and Independents John Moffett Robinson and W. A. Rowe.

DateElectionCandidatePartyVotes %
U.S. House of Representatives, Virginia's 9th district
Nov 7, 1922[3] General George C. Peery Democratic 32,163 52.39
John H. Hassinger Republican 29,227 47.61
C. Bascom Slemp did not seek reelection; seat turned Democratic
Nov 4, 1924[4] General George C. Peery (inc.) Democratic 31,407 52.57
C. Henry Harman Republican 28,341 47.43
Nov 2, 1926[5] General George C. Peery (inc.) Democratic 28,305 53.42
S. R. Hurley Republican 24,684 46.58
Governor of Virginia
Nov 7, 1933[6] General George C. Peery Democratic 122,820 73.74
Fred W. McWane Republican 40,377 24.24
Andrew J. Dunning, Jr. Prohibition 1,112 0.67
George C. White Socialist 1,107 0.66
John Moffett Robinson Independent 877 0.53
W. A. Rowe Independent 274 0.16
John G. Pollard unable to seek reelection; seat stayed Democratic


  1. Joseph A. Fry, "George C. Peery; Byrd Regular and Depression Governor" in Younger and Moore (eds), The Governors of Virginia 1860-1978 (Charlottesville, University Press of Virginia 1978) p. 261
  2. Fry p. 263
  3. "Statistics of the Congressional Election of November 7, 1922" (PDF). Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives. Retrieved June 7, 2016.
  4. "Statistics of the Congressional and Presidential Election of November 4, 1924" (PDF). Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives. Retrieved June 7, 2016.
  5. "Statistics of the Congressional Election of November 2, 1926" (PDF). Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives. Retrieved June 7, 2016.
  6. "1933 Governor General Election". Virginia State Board of Elections. Retrieved June 6, 2016.
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