Baxter Lays Out Plan For Success In Run for U.S. House Seat
WHEELING – Ralph Baxter’s mother Edith wanted, more than anything, for her two sons to be successful in life. She and her husband put an emphasis on education as the ticket to a better life for two boys raised in middle class West Virginia.
Today, Ralph Baxter of Wheeling believes his parents just might be proud of him and his brother, Stone Wright Baxter. Although his parents passed away in recent years, Baxter said they gave him and his brother – both successful businessmen – the tools for a good life.
Baxter, 71, a Democrat, recently tossed his hat into the political ring, seeking the congressional seat currently held by Republican David McKinley, 70, also of Wheeling. The third candidate in the race as of Friday is Democrat Kendra Fershee, 44, of Morgantown.
Entering politics for the first time, Baxter is hoping his success in the global business world and his blue-collar background will give him the edge at the polls.
From 1990 to 2013, Baxter served as chairman and CEO of the Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe law firm which originated in California. He is responsible for bringing Orrick’s Global Operations Center to Wheeling, and for other initiatives that have brought the firm international success.
Baxter followed his mother’s advice and earned numerous degrees, including a bachelor’s degree from Stanford University, a master’s in education from the Catholic University of America, and a law degree from the University of Virginia. Before practicing law, he taught at a grade school in Washington, D.C.
He said he has fond memories of spending his formative years in Wellsburg and Follansbee, although his parents moved for a short time to California where his mother was offered a too-good-to-turn down job. His father was a steelworker and a Navy veteran.
Baxter comes from parents of large families whose ancestry all hailed from West Virginia even before it was a state. His father grew up on a farm in Proctor and his mother was from Pine Grove. His paternal grandparents’ farm was without indoor plumbing until the late 1950s. A cast-iron pump in the kitchen was the main source of water for cooking, bathing and drinking.
“My earliest memories are of spending time at my grandparents’ farm in Wetzel County with all my cousins. There were 13 kids in my mother’s family and we got together all the time. My grandmother made the best noodles,” he said. “I really had a ‘Happy Days’ childhood, minus the leather jacket.”
As for education, Baxter said he had a great experience in public school. He recalls a Miss Tucci in Weirton who “opened windows of the world in that classroom.”
His success with Orrick brought him from California back to the Mountain State, where he and his wife Cheryl reside in the Woodsdale area. The couple have four grown children and three young grandchildren with whom they visit regularly via Facetime.
After stepping away from Orrick, Baxter has remained entrenched in corporate law as an adviser, writer and speaker. His wife operates “The Sweat Bar,” an online women’s actionwear clothing line headquartered in their Wheeling home.