Holt, Rush Dew (1905-1955). Papers 1820-2014
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Historical Note

Biographical Sketches of the Holt Family

Rush Dew Holt, Sr.

Rush D. Holt was born in Weston, West Virginia in 1905 to Dr. Matthew S. Holt and Chihela Dew Holt. Dr. Holt was a respected physician, horse breeder and a controversial political figure. He was a self proclaimed socialist, atheist and pacifist. His outspoken opposition to America's involvement in War World I brought much criticism and physical attacks against Dr. Holt, his home and family, for his 'anti-American' opinions, but Dr. Holt held firm to his views. Rush's mother, Chihela Dew Holt was the first female graduate of Salem College and later taught in a business school. After her marriage to Dr. Holt and birthing seven children, Chihela opened her own grocery store next to the family home. Rush Holt was raised in a free thinking home where honesty, kindness and education were foundational.

After graduating from high school with honors at the age of 15, Rush attended West Virginia University, later transferring to Salem College where he earned a Bachelors of Arts Degree in 1924. He taught and coached in high schools, and in Glenville and Salem Colleges. In 1930 Rush was elected to his first public office as a Delegate to the West Virginia Legislature. By 1934 he had the political support to defeat incumbent Senator Henry Hatfield. At the age of 29, Rush Holt became the youngest person to win a United States Senate seat. However, Senator-elect Holt could not be sworn in until June, 1935 when he turn thirty years old, meeting the constitutional age requirement for senators. Though Senator Holt was referred to as the 'Boy Senator' and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's 'Golden Boy', his political honeymoon would shortly end. Senator Holt began to criticize the administration for its New Deal policies, and adamantly fought FDR's attempt to 'pack' the Supreme Court with FDR nominees by changing the number of sitting justices from 9 to 12. Things turned very ugly as Senator Holt campaigned against any attempts by the administration to become involved in the European War. All this lead to Rush Holt losing his bid for renomination to his senate seat.

In 1940, Senator Holt met Helen L. Froelich, a biology teacher at the National Park College near Washington. They were married a year later and had two children, a daughter, Helen Jane Holt and a son, Rush Dew Holt, Jr. When Senator Holt's sister died in 1952, the couple adopted her son, David. When the Holts returned to West Virginia after 1941, Rush Holt stayed involved in politics by accepting speaking engagements, and by publishing a newspaper titled 'The West Virginia Taxpayer' which attacked government spending and excessive taxation.

Rush Holt ran several times for state and national offices with little success In 1952 he came very close to winning the race for West Virginia governor as the Republican candidate, losing to William Marland. Rush was returned to the House of Delegates in the West Virginia legislature by the voters of Lewis County in 1954. Senator Rush Dew Holt died in 1955 after a long, tough campaign against cancer.

Helen Froelich Holt

Helen Louise Holt was born in Gridley, Illinois, in 1913, the daughter of William and Edna Froelich, a well respected farming family. William Froelich served several terms as mayor of Gridley. Helen graduated from high school in 1930; attended Stephens College, receiving an A.A. degree in 1932; and attended Northwestern University, earning a B.A. in 1934 and a M.S. in Biology in 1938. Later Helen started working toward a doctorate at University of Missouri and University of North Carolina. She was a science librarian and teaching assistant at Stephens College and taught Biology at National Park College near Washington D.C., 1938-1941. In 1940, Helen Froelich was introduced to the junior Senator from West Virginia, Rush Dew Holt by Senator Holt's sister, Jane, after the Senator saw Helen's picture in Life Magazine. The article refuted a letter written by a reader claiming female teachers were 'ugly' by publishing photographs of attractive, intelligent women educators. All the photographs were sent to the magazine by students, including Helen Froelich's. Senator Holt and Helen Froelich were married a year later.

The couple moved to West Virginia after Senator Holt lost his bid for renomination to retain his senate seat. Two children were born to the couple, Helen Jane Holt and Rush Dew Holt, Jr. During this period, Mrs. Holt described herself as a homemaker while Senator Holt worked on restoring his political career and running for office. Helen Holt was involved in the inner circle of her husband's campaigns and during his service in the West Virginia legislature. In 1955, Rush Dew Holt died of cancer, and Helen Holt was appointed by the governor to fulfill her late husband's term in the House of Delegates. In 1957, after the death of the Secretary of State, Governor Cecil Underwood appointed Helen Holt to the office of Secretary of State, making her the first woman to hold that position in West Virginia history. After losing to Joe F. Burdett for election to the office in 1958, Mrs. Holt continued to break the gender barrier: she was the first woman appointed assistant commissioner of public institutions in West Virginia, she was voted to serve as a delegate at large at the Republican Convention, and she was later the first woman to serve as a trustee on the Board of the National Presbyterian Church in Washington. In 1960, Helen Holt received a Presidential appointment as Special Assistant to the Commissioner of the Federal Housing Administration. She was later made the Director of Mortgage Insurance for Nursing Homes, and assistant to Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Helen Froelich Holt retired from government service in 1983, but still remains active in her church, family and public service.

Rush Dew Holt, Jr.

Rush Dew Holt, Jr. was born in Weston, West Virginia in 1948. He is the son of the late U.S. Senator from West Virginia, (1935-1941) Rush Dew Holt, Sr. and Helen Froelich Holt, the first woman to be appointed West Virginia Secretary of State, (1957-1959) and presidential appointee to HUD, (retired, 1983). Rush, Jr. graduated from Carleton College in Minnesota with a B.A. in Physics, and earned a M.S. and a Ph.D. from NYU. In 1989 to 1998, Holt was Assistant Director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory. He has worked on developing alternative energy and has his own patent for a solar energy device.

In 1996, Holt lost his first race for office, losing in the primary for a congressional seat in New Jersey. In 1998, he won the election in the same district; and in the 2000 race he barely beat his challenger, winning by only 1,101 votes. Redistricting before the 2002 election gave Holt a comfortable hold on his district and he was returned to the House of Representatives through the 2006 election. Holt's final term in Congress ended in January 2015.

After his congressional career, Holt became to the chief executive officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the executive publisher of the Science family of journals.

Congressman Holt is married to Margaret Lancefield, a physician and Medical Director of the Princeton Charity Care Clinic. They have three children, Michael, Rachel and Dejan.