This Week in West Virginia History

e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / Michael Keller

Composer and performer Robert Drasnin was born in Charleston on November 17, 1927. His parents were Eastern European immigrants who met while working at a munitions factory in Nitro, about 15 miles west of Charleston.

When Drasnin was 10, his family moved to California. In high school, he played sax and clarinet in an all-star band that provided music for Hoagy Carmichael’s NBC radio show. He also performed with big band leaders Tommy Dorsey and Les Brown. His 1959 solo release, Voodoo, remains a classic of the “exotica” genre.

November 16, 1898: Carrie Williams Case Tried in Supreme Court of Appeals

Nov 16, 2017
J. R. Clifford
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

On November 16, 1898, the case of Carrie Williams versus The Board of Education of Fairfax District, Tucker County, was tried before the West Virginia Supreme Court.

To save money, the Tucker County Board of Education had reduced the school term of black schools from eight months to five months. A black teacher from Tucker, Carrie Williams, consulted with J. R. Clifford—West Virginia’s first licensed black lawyer. On his advice, she continued teaching for the entire eight months.

1970 Marshall University Football Team
Marshall University

On the night of November 14, 1970, a Southern Airways DC-9 approached a foggy and rainy Tri-State Airport in Wayne County. The airliner slammed into a hillside just short of the runway and burst into flames. All 75 passengers were killed.

On board were nearly the entire Marshall University football team along with the head coach, athletic director, and 36 other fans, coaches, announcers, and crew members. It is still the deadliest sports-related air disaster in U.S. history.

November 13, 1923: Attorney Virginia Mae Brown Born in Putnam County

Nov 13, 2017
Virginia Mae Brown
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / West Virginia State Archives

Attorney Virginia Mae Brown was born at Pliny, in Putnam County, on November 13, 1923. After graduating from the West Virginia University College of Law, she forged a pioneering career in government. In 1952—before she’d turned 30—Brown became the first woman to serve as assistant attorney general in West Virginia history.

In 1961, Governor Wally Barron named her West Virginia Insurance Commissioner, the first woman to hold that post in any state. The next year, Brown became the first woman ever appointed to a state Public Service Commission.

November 10, 1777: Shawnee Leader Cornstalk Murdered in Point Pleasant

Nov 10, 2017
Cornstalk
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Shawnee leader Cornstalk was murdered while being held in captivity at Point Pleasant on November 10, 1777. He’d spent a lifetime fighting white settlers and the British Army in the vicinity of present West Virginia. 

In 1774, Cornstalk had led the resistance to a combined British and Virginia army that was on its way to attack Indian settlements in Ohio. Cornstalk’s men intercepted the Virginians at Point Pleasant. His Shawnee warriors were defeated after a valiant day of fighting.

November 9, 1952: Opening of The Huntington Museum of Art

Nov 9, 2017
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / David Fattaleh / WV Division of Tourism (WVDT)

On November 9, 1952, the Huntington Galleries opened in the Park Hills section of Huntington. It was West Virginia’s largest art museum. By the time the name of the galleries was changed to the Huntington Museum of Art in 1987, the collection had grown to more than 15,000 objects.

Forks-of-Cheat Baptist is the oldest church in West Virginia west of the Alleghenies with continuous records.
TripAdvison.com

On the night of November 7, 1775, the Reverend John Corbly and 12 others organized the Forks-of-Cheat Baptist Church. The meeting took place near Stewartstown, about six miles north of Morgantown.

The church remains in service today. As such, it is the oldest church in West Virginia west of the Alleghenies with continuous records. Its earliest artifact is the small hand-written minute book of that charter meeting in 1775.

Abraham Lincoln
Library of Congress / Wikimedia Commons

On November 6, 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected 16th president of the United States. His election started a political cascade in which seven southern states seceded from the Union and formed the Confederates States of America. Four more states would join the Confederacy when the Civil War started five months later.

November 3, 1947: Dedication of Kanawha Airport

Nov 3, 2017
Aerial view of Yeager Airport
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

On November 3, 1947, Kanawha Airport was dedicated on Coonskin Ridge near Charleston. World War I ace Captain Eddie Rickenbacker was among those present. The massive earth-moving and mountain-leveling project had taken three years to complete.

The airport’s terminal building was finished in 1950, and an addition was built in 1970. A runway-extension project was completed a year later, allowing the airport to accommodate jet airliners. Other renovations have occurred periodically over the years.

November 2, 1942: Ceramist Frederick Rhead Dies at 62

Nov 2, 2017
Frederick Rhead
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Ceramist Frederick Rhead died on November 2, 1942, at age 62. He learned the pottery trade in his native England before emigrating to the United States in 1902. Rhead’s pottery skills were honored with a gold medal at the 1915 San Diego Exposition.

Rhead was at the top of his profession in 1927, when he joined the Homer Laughlin Company at Newell in Hancock County. At the time, Homer Laughlin was the third largest producer of pottery or chinaware in the world. Rhead made pottery, taught, wrote, and created glazes and shapes.

Charles Rogers of Fayette County earned the Medal of Honor for his actions during a battle in the Vietnam War.
Photo Courtesy of HomeOfHeroes.com

On November 1, 1968, Charles Rogers of Fayette County earned the Medal of Honor for his actions during a battle in the Vietnam War. The 40-year-old Rogers had previously received Army ROTC training at West Virginia State College (now University).

In the early hours of November 1, he was commanding an army infantry battalion near the Cambodian border. The fire-support base he was protecting was under attack from heavy shelling and a ground wave assault.

On October 31, 1990, union workers at Ravenswood Aluminum arrived as usual for their midnight shift.

Only this time, they were turned away from the gates. Thus began one of the most bitter labor disputes of the late 20th century.

From the time Kaiser Aluminum opened the Ravenswood plant in 1954 until it sold its operations in 1988, there had never been a strike. But, workers felt that the new owners’ cost-cutting measures were jeopardizing their safety. In fact, four workers had been killed on the job just the summer before the conflict began.

October 30, 1825: Feudist Randolph McCoy Born in Logan County

Oct 30, 2017
Randolph McCoy
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Feudist Randolph McCoy was born in Logan County on October 30, 1825. He married his cousin, whose father gave the couple a small farm in neighboring Pike County, Kentucky. There, they raised 13 children.

October 27, 1879: W. Va. Attorney General Howard Lee Born in Wirt County

Oct 27, 2017
Wikimedia commons / North Carolina Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

West Virginia Attorney General Howard B. Lee was born in Wirt County on October 27, 1879. After graduating from Marshall College, now Marshall University, Lee taught school in Putnam County. Then, while studying law at Washington and Lee University, he was elected as a Republican to the West Virginia Legislature.

October 26, 1934: Basketball Star Rod Hundley Born in Charleston

Oct 26, 2017
Hot Rod Hundley
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / West Virginia & Regional History Collection

Basketball star Rod Hundley was born in Charleston on October 26, 1934. He was a sensation at Charleston High School, dazzling opponents with his tricks and talent. His flashy style is rarely seen today, outside of the Harlem Globetrotters.

His repertoire included trick shots, a signature behind-the-back dribble, and spinning the ball on his finger—all during games. His flair on the court earned him the nickname the “clown prince of basketball.” But he’ll always be remembered as “Hot Rod.”

October 25, 1918: Athlete Biggie Goldberg Born

Oct 25, 2017
Biggie
e-WV West Virginia Encyclopedia / West Virginia Humanities Council

Athlete Marshall “Biggie” Goldberg was born in Elkins on October 25, 1918. He was an all-state football and basketball player at Elkins High School. After graduating, he became a two-time All-American at the University of Pittsburgh and led Pitt to the 1937 national football championship.

As a senior, Goldberg asked to switch from tailback to fullback. Pitt’s coach tried to discourage him, but Goldberg made the move and repeated as an All-American.

Many western Virginia residents had few options because the U.S. Constitution forbids any state to be carved from another state without the original state’s approval.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / 1872, Western Virgnia, Reorganized Government of Virginia

On October 24, 1861, voters formally approved the formation of West Virginia. Many western Virginia residents had been frustrated with the Virginia state government for years. But, they had few options at their disposal because the U.S. Constitution forbids any state to be carved from another state without the original state’s approval.

The Virginia state government in Richmond would not have willingly given away one-third of its territory. But, when Virginia left the Union at the beginning of the Civil War, western Virginia politicians seized their window of opportunity.

October 23, 1890: FFV Passenger Train Wrecks Three Miles East of Hinton

Oct 23, 2017
Wreck on the C&O
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia / J. J. Young

Shortly before dawn on October 23, 1890, the passenger train known as the Fast Flying Virginian, or FFV, wrecked three miles east of Hinton in Summers County. The cause of the accident was a rock slide.

The eastbound luxury train was traveling from Cincinnati to Washington on the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway. Its engineer, George Washington Alley, a member of a prominent railroading family, was killed while trying to stop the train. Firemen Lewis Withrow and Robert Foster were injured.

Sergeant Major John Champe
Valerius Tygart via Wikimedia Commons

On the night of October 20, 1780, Sergeant Major John Champe set off on a mission to track down the traitor Benedict Arnold.  Arnold had recently betrayed the Americans by agreeing to surrender the fortifications at West Point, New York, to the British. His scheme was discovered at the last minute, and Arnold escaped to British lines.

October 19, 1949: Writer Richard Currey Born in Parkersburg

Oct 19, 2017
Crossing Over: The Vietnam Stories by Richard Currey
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia

Writer Richard Currey was born in Parkersburg on October 19, 1949. He served as navy medical corpsman from 1968 to 1972 and also studied at West Virginia University and Howard University.

Currey’s first poem was published in 1974, His first book of poetry came out in 1980, earning him a Pulitzer Prize nomination. As a result of the anthology Crossing Over: A Vietnam Journal, Currey became the D.H Lawrence Fellow in Literature and writer in residence at the University of New Mexico. He founded the Santa Fe Writers Project and continues to live in New Mexico.

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