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Former WV secretary of state dies of cancer at 76

Charleston Gazette-Mail photo Heiskell
Charleston Gazette-Mail photo

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Edgar F. “Hike” Heiskell III, a former West Virginia Secretary of State, died Sunday at the age of 76 after a brief battle with cancer.

Heiskell served as West Virginia’s Secretary of State from 1973 to 1975. He was the first Republican to hold that office since 1928. He also served as Republican State Chairman from 1987 to 1990. He identified as an independent at the time of his death.

Since then he’s served as a lawyer in Charleston. He lead counsel in dozens of cases against car manufacturers, including cases against Ford Motor Co. after several Bronco II and Explorer rollovers, and Toyota after multiple sudden acceleration crashes throughout the country.

He was also passionate about fair and honest elections. He was former chairman of the Committee on Election Reform of the National Association of Secretaries of State during his time as Secretary of State. He also was highly opposed to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which defined political spending as free speech, and allowed corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money on political activities, as long as it was done independently of a party or a candidate. In an editorial published by the Charleston Gazette in October 2012, he called the decision “an existential threat to American democracy.”

Heiskell was born on October 10, 1940 in Morgantown. He graduated from West Virginia University in 1963 with a bachelor’s degree in political science, then earned a Juris Doctorate from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1966.

He served as a fighter pilot for the US Air Force and Air National Guard prior to going into politics.

His sister, Heather Heiskell Jones, called him a renaissance man.

“He was the most handsome, charming man you’d ever meet… A pilot, a writer, a chef,” she said. “He just loved to travel.”

Reach Ali Schmitz at [email protected], 304-348-4843 or follow @SchmitzMedia on Twitter.

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