Born from the strife of the American Civil War, June 20 marks West Virginia’s birthday. This year, the Mountain State is celebrating 159 years.
How Did W.Va. Become A State?
The official account from the National Archives notes that the West Virginia Constitution was ratified by voters on Nov. 26, 1861. In May 1862, Sen. Waitman T. Willey, who represented the Union side of Virginia at the time, submitted a bill, S. 365, to Congress for the admission of West Virginia to the Union. He then proposed an amendment to the bill calling for West Virginia to amend its constitution to include the gradual emancipation of slaves in the state.
On July 14, 1862, the Senate approved West Virginia’s admission to the Union, with statehood conditioned on its approval of the Willey Amendment. The House approved the bill in December of that year.
President Abraham Lincoln signed the bill admitting West Virginia to the Union on Dec. 31. On March 26, 1863, West Virginia ratified the revised constitution to include the Willey Amendment. Lincoln proclaimed that West Virginia would officially be recognized as a state on June 20, 1863.
W.Va. Statehood Celebration
Today, West Virginians can enjoy events all across the state on June 20, but this year, Gov. Jim Justice has invited all West Virginians to the State Culture Center at the Capitol Complex in Charleston to celebrate the state’s birthday.
Justice and First Lady Cathy Justice will arrive at noon and will announce the winner of the West Virginia Birthday Cake Contest.
The contest asked West Virginians to submit an original cake recipe, with the winning recipe becoming the “official” state birthday cake. Going forward, it will be served every year on June 20 to celebrate West Virginia’s statehood.
After announcing the winner, they will perform a ceremonial cake cutting.
The day will also feature a Golden Horseshoe Reunion, open to all former recipients of the Golden Horseshoe Award in recognition of their knowledge of West Virginia history. The reunion will feature a ceremony in the State Theater, beginning at 12:30 p.m., which will include Justice being knighted with an honorary Golden Horseshoe in recognition of his service to West Virginia and support of the state’s history.
A West Virginia Day reception will be held at 1 p.m.
At 2 p.m., the West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History will host its inaugural History Bowl Legends Tournament, where past participants come together as all-star teams to compete for bragging rights.
The West Virginia Day festivities will also include several choir performances throughout the day.