cover of book

Just Good Politics: The Life of Raymond Chafin, Appalachian Boss
by Raymond Chafin
edited by Topper Sherwood
University of Pittsburgh Press, 1996
eISBN: 978-0-8229-8071-1 | Cloth: 978-0-8229-3789-0 | Paper: 978-0-8229-5577-1
Library of Congress Classification F245.42.C47A3 1994
Dewey Decimal Classification 975.4043092

Just Good Politics is the autobiography of Raymond Chafin, the savvy, free-wheeling political “boss” from Logan County, West Virginia, who managed political machinery for the elections of several state governors,  U.S. senators, and, in 1960, for John F. Kennedy.  Chafin’s story includes the true account of his role in the historic primary that ended Hubert Humphrey’s bid for the presidency and gave Kennedy the momentum he needed to win the national Democratic nomination.

But Just Good Politics doesn’t merely satisfy the reader’s curiosity about the 1960 campaign.  Just as fulfilling is Chafin’s description of political culture in a place where mountain families scraped out difficult lives, where gunfire settled some issues, and where politics was “fist-and-skull.”

Chafin also describes his relationships with other West Virginia politicians, including U.S senators Robert C. Byrd and John D. Rockefeller IV.  With disarming candor, Chafin details the behind-the-scenes deals, political maneuvering, and, perhaps most important, the influence of larger bureaucratic interests on elections in the region.

Just Good Politics describes deal making, rigged elections, and votes bought with cash and whiskey.  It tells about men who were shot for siding with the wrong people in the wrong district on the wrong election day.  Certainly, some of these stories are not shining examples of democratic principle.  But Raymond Chafin comes across as a fascinating storyteller, and as  a man who did the best he could for the people around him.  “I never wanted much for myself,” he says.  “I just liked to win ‘em.”

In Just Good Politics, the reader will find a genuine bridge between our increasingly homgenized American society and a largely unexamined part of rural mountain life.

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