Bill Lynch, Mason Adams, Kelley Libby, Connie Bailey Kitts, Trey Kay Published

Remembering Woody Williams And Volunteers Save Segregated Cemetery, Inside Appalachia

A headstone in a cemetery is seen. A plant has been placed in front. In the background is a clear blue sky and green trees.
Headstone of Rev. Braxton Rodgers, decorated with a rock lily. Jim Crow practices prevented many African American traditions of honoring the dead, Joseph Bundy said. “We rely on those monuments and things to remind us of the beauty both in the person and in the heart and soul and personality of our loved ones who have gone away. The ashes and dust they’re buried in—we can't get that image of beauty from that. So that’s why we have statues of the angels in the cemetery, and the beautiful flowers, and the headstones and things of that nature.”
Connie Bailey Kitts/West Virginia Public Broadcasting

This week, we visit a cemetery in Bluefield, Virginia and learn how racial segregation followed some people to the grave.

We also hear from Neema Avashia, author of the celebrated memoir, “Another Appalachia: Coming Up Queer And Indian In A Mountain Place.” 

And we remember Hershel “Woody” Williams. The West Virginia native was America’s last living World War II Medal of Honor winner. He died last summer at the age of 98.

You’ll hear these stories and more this week, Inside Appalachia.

In This Episode:

Repairing A Segregated Cemetery

For decades, the graves of Black residents in a Virginia community were neglected in the town’s old, segregated cemetery.

It might have stayed that way if not for the efforts of one woman who had family buried there.

Folkways Reporter Connie Bailey Kitts brought us this story.

World War I veteran Robert L. Dalton was a corporal in the 803rd Pioneer Infantry which included the band of African Americans who played for French and American troops. His grave is now decorated on Memorial Day.

Credit: Connie Bailey Kitts/West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Neema Avashia

Courtesy Photo

Coming Up Queer And Indian In Appalachia

Recently, Inside Appalachia put together a list of summer reading suggestions. We interviewed several prominent Appalachian authors, but we couldn’t fit them all into one show – including Neema Avashia.

Her collection of personal essays, “Another Appalachia: Coming Up Queer and Indian in a Mountain Place,” about growing up in West Virginia, was a well-received memoir.   

Mason Adams spoke with Avashia.

Remembering Woody Williams

Hershel “Woody” Williams was the nation’s last surviving World War II Medal of Honor recipient.

He was a West Virginia native and died June 29, 2022 at the age of 98.

Before he passed, though, he did an interview with WVPB’s Trey Kay for the podcast Us & Them

Hershel “Woody” Williams

Credit: e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia


Our theme music is by Matt Jackfert. Other music this week was provided by Chris Knight, Chris Stapleton, Harvey & Copeland, June Carter Cash, and Little Sparrow.

Bill Lynch is our producer. Zander Aloi is our associate producer. Our executive producer is Eric Douglas. Kelley Libby is our editor. Our audio mixer is Patrick Stephens.

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Inside Appalachia is a production of West Virginia Public Broadcasting.