CECIL H. UNDERWOOD was born in Josephs Mills, West Virginia. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Salem College, a Master of Arts degree from West Virginia University, and he has been awarded thirteen honorary doctoral degrees from American colleges and universities. He served six terms in the West Virginia House of Delegates, from 1945 to 1957, the last four terms as minority leader. He was first elected governor in 1956, as the youngest person ever to hold the state's highest office, and reelected forty years later as the most senior governor in the history of the state. In the four decades between elections, Governor Underwood provided leadership in education as president of Bethany College, from 1972 to 1975, and as president of the National Association of State Councils on Vocational Education. He also worked as an executive in both the coal and chemical industries, presided over the creation of the technology-centered Software Valley, and served on several charitable foundations and boards. After returning to public office, Governor Underwood accepted leadership positions in several regional and national organizations, including the Southern Technology Council, Southern Growth Policies Board, Southern States Energy Board, National Education Goals Panel, Southern Regional Education Board, and the Jobs for America's Graduates Program. In October 1999, Governor Underwood was selected by Governors of the Appalachian states to serve as state co-chairman for the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) for 2000. He was the first Appalachian Governor in the commission's thirty-four-year history to serve consecutive terms as state co-chair.