Portrait: Senate of Pennsylvania
Born in Clearfield, Pennsylvania, September 3, 1861, Cyrus E. Woods was the sixth and youngest child of physician Matthew Woods and the former Kathlene Speece. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa in law from Lafayette College, 1886; was admitted to the state bar in 1889; practiced law in Philadelphia through 1894; and in 1893, married Mary Todd Marchand, the daughter of distinguished Democratic Westmoreland judge and legislator John A. Marchand and the former Mary Todd, daughter of Judge Richard Todd of Philadelphia. Elected to the state Senate in November 1900, Woods served two terms; elected president pro tempore at the close of the 1905 session, and presided during the 1906 extra session. He was returned to the chair in 1907.
Woods guided the “state constabulary” (State Police) bill through passage, and pushed a legislative agenda that prohibited industrial monopolies, corporate corruption, passed the water company eminent domain bill, promoted health maintenance programs, improvement of highways, water pollution statutes, and the security and safety of women and minor children in the work place.
Relocating in Greensburg in 1912, Cyrus became one of the “foremost corporation lawyers” in Pennsylvania, establishing a successful partnership (Gaither and Woods) in Westmoreland County. In short order, Woods represented the firm as general counsel for the Pittsburgh Coal Company and solicitor for the Pennsylvania Railroad. In the years before the Wilson presidency, the Mellon family considered Woods an important cog, indeed the leader of their Western Pennsylvania Republican machine. As such, he became the Mellon’s business attorney, specializing in protecting the family’s vast financial interests.
Cyrus embarked on a 14-year diplomatic career in 1910 as President Taft’s Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Portugal. The appointment came at a critical juncture in U.S.-Portuguese relations. During the 1912 ascent of the revolutionary government of the Azores’ Theophilus Braga, Woods provided valuable diplomatic service and advice to Braga’s fledgling republican government. In 1915 and 1919, Governors Brumbaugh and Sproul selected Cyrus as secretary of the Commonwealth. In the latter year, Secretary Woods opened the Pennsylvania Constitutional Commission. Cyrus returned to the diplomatic corps under President Harding in 1921, serving as Minister to Spain. His foreign mission transferred to Tokyo two years later, his arrival coincided with the cataclysmic 1923 Tokyo earthquake, during which he requested the delivery of medical aid for the devastated city through the U.S. Fleet at Manila. He assumed responsibilities as director of the Red Cross, and aided by “the heroic” assistance of embassy staff members, provided humanitarian services that saved thousands of lives. Cyrus shared casual relationships with Governors Pennypacker and Stone, was a good friend of President Taft, and a respected ally of Penrose. Woods served as a 48-year member of the Pennsylvania Bar Association, functioned as the organization’s vice president, and belonged to Delta Kappa Epsilon, the Union League and Clover Club of Philadelphia, the Duquesne Club of Pittsburgh, and the Harrisburg Country Club. After ambassadorial service, Woods settled in Chester County, nominated for membership on the Interstate Commerce Commission; however, in January 1929, Gov. Fisher persuaded him to accept the state’s attorney general post. Woods, however, resigned to take care of his ailing wife. The Honorable Cyrus Woods died of kidney failure at age 77, December 8, 1938, after admittance to Philadelphia’s Jefferson Hospital.