Jessica Lilly Published

Filmmaker Seeks Understanding, Compassion As New Docu Series Eyes McDowell County


Successful businessman Monty Moran got his pilot license in 2017 and has been flying around the country, dropping into underserved communities to talk with people about their struggles.

“The people in McDowell county had been through a tremendous amount of struggle, and it’s caused them not to, not to divide apart and throw things at each other, but instead to draw tighter as a community,” Moran said. “And, you know, I’ve learned through this whole docu series, all six episodes the value of struggle. Those who find the most struggle and hardship, though I find often are the wisest, most giving, most generous, most comforting and most compassionate people that I ever meet.”

A new docuseries features underprivileged communities that often face harsh realities and statistics. Moran, a former attorney, hosts the series called, CONNECTED: A SEARCH FOR UNITY with intentions of empathy and understanding. The series features McDowell County, West Virginia in one of the episodes.

While in McDowell County, Moran met up with several folks including Derek Tyson, a resident in Welch who is the editor of the local newspaper, The Welch Daily News. In the episode, Tyson shared the story of his father who killed himself when Derek was just 16-years-old.


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Welch Daily News Editor Derek Tyson (right) speaks with successful businessman Monty Moran (left) beside the large newspaper printing machine.

“My dad, he’s my hero, he always, always will be my hero,” Tyson explains in the show. “But that cycle can’t continue. Somebody’s got to sit there, and just grit their damn teeth and take it. Because you can’t pass on a legacy like that. It’s not fair to the kids. And the thought of another human feeling worthless. Like I like to feel all the time. I gotta learn to love myself, I guess, a little more. But I guess with the Welch News I’m trying to convince McDowell County to love itself again, too.”

Residents in McDowell County shared stories of resilience, hardships, hope and despair. They also talked with Moran about the amount of people in the county on federal public assistance.

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McDowell County resident Derek Tyson shows successful businessman Monty Moran an abandoned coal mine.

“From the people of McDowell County who I spoke with, and almost all of them by the way, that the federal assistance that is being received by people there, most of them thought that that federal assistance, while, perhaps intended to do good, has actually been a difficult problem for McDowell County,” Moran said.

Moran also found new ideas and a better understanding of the people.

“I was blown away by how I met, you know, both, Black people and white people in every race you can imagine in McDowell County, and no one cared what race you were,” Moran said. “It was a big family. I mean, there seemed to be no concern about race at all. And perhaps that stems from the fact that there were a huge amount of people from all over the world who came into work in the coal industry there.”

Moran told West Virginia Public Broadcasting he’s working to start a foundation as part of this program but didn’t have many details as it’s in the early stages of development.

“Everywhere we go, we see places that are in need and more than anything, what they need is people’s attention,” Moran said. “They need love. They need intelligence, they need wisdom. And I am definitely staying in touch with the people in McDowell County and in all the other places we did our episodes.”

The series, CONNECTED: A SEARCH FOR UNITY, premiers on West Virginia Public Broadcasting Sunday, Feb. 7 at 7pm. The episode titled “The County That Built The Country,” that features McDowell County, airs in that time slot on Feb. 21.


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McDowell County, WV