April 7, 1981: Poet Roy Lee Harmon Dies at 80

Roy Lee Harmon

Poet Roy Lee Harmon died on April 7, 1981, at age 80. The founder of the West Virginia Poetry Society, Harmon was born in Boone County, grew up in Danville, and graduated from Scott District School. He attended Morris Harvey College, which is now the University of Charleston, before becoming a reporter and eventually city editor for the Raleigh Register newspaper in Beckley.

In 1937, Governor Homer Holt appointed Harmon poet laureate of West Virginia. He was succeeded in that role by James Lowell McPherson in 1943 but was reappointed by Governor Clarence Meadows in 1946. He held the post for the next 14 years, when he was replaced by Cabell County’s Vera Andrews Harvey, who served only one year. In 1961, Governor Wally Barron again named Harmon poet laureate. Harmon was given poet laureate emeritus status by Governor Jay Rockefeller in 1979. Overall, he served as the state’s poet laureate for 38 years under four governors.

He also served four intermittent terms in the state legislature. In addition to his writing and political career, Roy Lee Harmon was a television host in Oak Hill during the 1950s.