Submitted by Valerie Crook, <[email protected]>
The History of West Virginia, Old and New
Published 1923, The American Historical Society, Inc.,
Chicago and New York, Volume III, pg. 4-5
REESE BLIZZARD. Considering the broad range of his
services and activities Reese Blizzard, of Parkersburg, has lived an exceedingly busy life, and his friends have many
times admired the wonderful energy which he has put into his undertakings. He is one of West Virginia's distinguished
lawyers, formerly a circuit judge, and has also been a constructive factor in the larger business affairs of the state.
Judge Blizzard was born in Nicholas County, West
Virginia, October 17, 1864, son of James and Elizabeth (Gill) Blizzard. His maternal grandfather came to this country
from Ireland. His paternal grandfather, Alexander Blizzard, came from Scotland. His wife was a Campbell, also of
Scotch ancestry and related to Alexander Campbell, founder of Bethany College, West Virginia. Alexander Blizzard
made his home in New Jersey. James was one of his three sons, one of whom went to Ohio and the other to Indiana,
while James settled in Greenbrier County, West Virginia. He was a clergyman of the Methodist Protestant Church,
though his duties were only local. The greater part of his life was spent in West Virginia, and he was a private
soldier in the Confederate army and wounded in the battle of Shiloh. He died in 1889 and his widow in 1907. James
Blizzard's first wife was a daughter of Rev. A. T. Morrison, of Nicholas County, and she became the mother of ten
children. His second wife, Elizabeth Gill, was the mother of thirteen children.
Reese Blizzard lived in Nicholas County until he was
thirteen, and thereafter made his home with his parents in Gilmer County until he reached his majority. Following
that he spent some time in Calhoun County, and eventually came to Wood County. His education was the product of
common schools, and the Glenville Normal School at Glenville in Gilmer County. Among the experiences by which he
made a living and prepared himself for bigger things he taught school, worked on a farm, clerked in a store, was
assistant in the circuit clerk's office and carried mail. He read law at Glenville with the firm of Linn & Withers, and was
admitted to the bar in 1886. Beginning practice at Grantsville, he was soon recognized as a man of superior powers in
the law and his practice came to extend all over Central West Virginia. Ten years after his admission to the bar he was
elected circuit judge of the Sixth Judicial Circuit in 1896. The circuit was composed of the counties of Gilmer, Calhoun,
Roane, Jackson and Clay. As judge of that court he made the court a purely business machine, and attracted the
attention of the entire state by the rapidity with which he transacted the business of the court. He was only reversed twice
by the Supreme Court during his entire term of office—a record never made by any other judge in the state. Judge
Blizzard served only four years of his eight-year term, resigning midway to remove to Parkersburg and engage
in the general practice of the law.
In 1901 he was appointed by President McKinley United
States district attorney for the State of West Virginia. Soon after this the state was divided into two districts, and
Judge Blizzard was made district attorney to the Northern District. He was reappointed by President Roosevelt, and
had charge of all matters in his district under the Federal Department of Justice until 1910. For ten years he was
attorney for the Street Railway Company of Parkersburg. He has served as attorney for the Little Kanawha Syndicate
Properties, and in that capacity directed the condemnation proceedings for the right of way from the Pennsylvania state
line to Fairmont for the Buckhannon & Northern Railroad. Judge Blizzard is president of the Parkersburg Commercial
Banking & Trust Company, president of the Parkersburg Ice Company, president of the Oil & Gas Company, and has
many other business interests too numerous to mention. His chief hobby outside the practice of law is farming, and his
home is on a beautiful suburban place at Parkersburg. He has given considerable attention to the breeding of pure
bred livestock, chiefly horses. Judge Blizzard has been directly connected with the building of five fair grounds in
West Virginia, the last one being at Parkersburg, said to be the best in the state. He was president of the
Parkersburg Fair Association for many years.
In politics he has always been a loyal republican. The
five counties in the Sixth Judicial Circuit had a normal democratic majority of 1,372. In that circuit he was elected
to the judgeship by 819 majority.
In 1904 Judge Blizzard was in the storm center of the
politics of West Virginia. The late A. G. Dayton, W. P. Hubbard, George 0. Sturgiss and Judge Blizzard were
agreed upon as a committee to make recommendations to the Legislature for the enactment of laws after the storm
produced by the report of the West Virginia Tax Commission.
As a member of this committee Judge Blizzard proposed
many laws that had not been recommended by the tax commission and which were afterward enacted as laws by the
Legislature. As a result, leaseholds for oil, gas and coal have been taxed ever since. The fees of state officers, and
especially that of secretary of state, amounting to $60,000 per year, has been turned into the state treasury. Capitation
taxes have been collected by the assessor when assessment is made. This has netted the state treasury something like
$100,000 per year. In all, more money has been turned into the state treasury as a result of these recommendations than
was turned in as a result of the recommendations of the State Tax Commission.
But the real character and public interest of the man was
more clearly shown in the ownership and editorial management of the Parkersburg Dispatch News, a daily newspaper,
than in any other phase of Judge Blizzard's life. It was in this that his independence and fearlessness were displayed in
a most remarkable degree.
He was one of the earliest, if not the very earliest,
progressive republicans in West Virginia. As editor of the Parkersburg Dispatch News he was a most unwavering
advocate of Roosevelt's principles and policies. In some matters he was in advance of Roosevelt. While he stoutly opposed
strikes as a means of settling differences between capital and labor, he even contended that capital was worse than labor
for making conditions which brought about strikes. His doctrine was that if the great body of the people knew that
labor would not strike it would be much more friendly to labor, and that if labor would put into politics the money
it put into strikes in properly setting itself before the public that it would, with the masses favoring it, be able to enact
laws which would prevent capital from being unfair. He constantly proclaimed that the insignificant number of
capitalists and the small number of organized, labor ought not to be permitted to disturb the great body of the people;
and that the people, being disinterested and fair should make such laws as would prevent the great body of the public from
being disturbed, harassed and injured by a fight between capitalists, composed by not more than five per cent of the
people, and organized labor, constituting not more than fifteen per cent of the people. He urged that at the
beginning of the existence of civilized man capital and labor began the settlement of their differences by the same method
that two bullies employ by trying which are the stronger. It has settled nothing: it has constantly become worse.
That the real solution of the problem is in eliminating the difference between capital and labor by making the great
masses both capitalists and laborers. That there was no law, moral or divine, which of right would constitute one
man a laborer and another a capitalist. That, without revolution or seriously disturbing business, and by a system of
inheritance and income taxes, the enormously few estates of the country, composing ninety per cent of its wealth, could
in twenty-five years redistribute ninety per cent of the wealth of the country; and that the money thus derived
should be employed in paying all of the expenses of educating all of the children of the country; and in the
construction of our permanent public roads, thus relieving the masses of the great burden of taxation; that the same
authority which voted out of existence the liquor power because it was against the public interest could, with the same
license, redistribute the enormous holdings of the few, because such holdings are against the public interest.
His first wife was Lillie Stump, who died in 1896. The
four children by that union were Reese, Jr., Boy, Pearl and Ethel. Judge Blizzard then married Fannie Holland, and
they have three children, named Paul, Pansy and Fannie. Two of his sons, Reese, Jr., and Paul, made creditable
records during the World war, both seeing service abroad.
By a system of strenuous exercises and by using milk as
the greater part of his diet, Judge Blizzard has rebuilt a constitution worn by work that, fifteen years ago, seriously
threatened his life, and he is now a stronger and more rugged man and capable of performing much more labor
than he has been since he was thirty years of age.