Preacher and historian Shirley Donnelly was born in Jackson County on February 2, 1895. When he was 14, he and his family moved from the village of Rock Castle to Charleston. After attending seminary in Richmond, he became an ordained Baptist minister.
Donnelly began his ministry in 1919 at Petersburg in Grant County. Three years later, he moved on to Oak Hill Baptist Church in Fayette County, where he stayed for 21 years. During World War II, he was a chaplain in the U.S. Army and received several honors, including the Bronze Star, the Legion of Merit Award, and the American Defense Medal. After the war, he served as a chaplain for the West Virginia National Guard and the Veterans Administration Hospital in Beckley and was pastor of the Crab Orchard Baptist Church near Beckley for 25 years.
Donnelly became known statewide thanks to his love of history. His popular newspaper columns in the Beckley Post Herald highlighted local lore and were eventually collected into three books. He also established the Fayette County Historical Society. Shirley Donnelly died in 1982 at age 87.