CHARLESTON — The following events happened on these dates in West Virginia history. To read more, go to e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia at www.wvencyclopedia.org.
Jan. 31, 1878: Educator William Woodson Trent was born in rural Nicholas County. He served as state superintendent of schools from 1933 until 1957. Trent almost single handedly oversaw implementation of the county unit system of public schools, in 1933 and 1934. When the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision ending segregation in the public schools, Trent worked with Governor William Casey Marland to integrate the state in a peaceful and speedy manner.
Jan. 31, 1922: Movie and television actress Joanne Dru was born Joan Letitia Lacock in Logan. Dru appeared in the classic Westerns Red River (1948) and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949), both starring John Wayne, and in Wagon Master (1950). Her movie career included more than 40 films. In 1961, she was featured in the television series Guestward Ho! and appeared on Playhouse 90 and other television shows.
Jan. 31, 1945: Sergeant Jonah Edward Kelley of Mineral County was killed in action while leading his squad against German positions during World War II. Though wounded several times and without regard for his own safety, he led his squad in a furious assault on the village of Kesternich, located just inside the German border. After several days of attempting to take the town, during the night of January 30-31, 1945, he refused evacuation to a field hospital and continued to lead his squad in another attack when he suffered additional wounds and died. Because of his efforts, the village fell to the American forces. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his “superb courage.” He was the only soldier of the 78th Infantry to be awarded the Medal of Honor in World War II. His body was returned to Mineral County in 1948 and buried in the Queen’s Point Cemetery.
Feb. 1, 1832: Education reformer Alexander Luark Wade was born. Wade reorganized rural Monongalia County schools to require progress through eight prescribed levels with a graduating exercise and receipt of a diploma. Wade’s system worked so well, it was copied in other counties and states.
Feb. 1, 1901: Frank Buckles, the last known American veteran of World War I, was born in Missouri. Buckles purchased a farm in Charles Town in 1954 and continued to live there until his death in 2011.
February 2, 1908: Justice Marion Chambers was born in Huntington. Chambers was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in the Iwo Jima campaign in February 1945. On February 19, 1945, Chambers led an assault battalion that landed under heavy enemy fire. During an eight-hour battle, Chambers led his troops in the capture of the high ground. On February 22, he was wounded and removed from combat. President Harry Truman awarded him the Medal of Honor on November 1, 1950. After leaving the military, Chambers served in a number of federal positions, including staff advisor to the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Feb. 3, 1825: Confederate General William Lowther Jackson was born in Clarksburg. He was one of at least three Southern officers to bear the nickname, “Mudwall.”
Feb. 3, 1845: Gilmer County, located in the heart of West Virginia, was established from parts of Kanawha and Lewis counties. It was named for Thomas W. Gilmer, a governor of Virginia.
Feb. 3, 1923: Broadcast announcer Jack Fleming was born in Morgantown. He was the long-time ‘‘Voice of the Mountaineers.’’ After WWII, Fleming returned to WV and attended West Virginia University on the GI Bill where he began announcing WVU sports as an undergraduate in 1947, and, except for a few years when he worked away as a broadcaster in pro basketball and football, he anchored sports radio at the state’s flagship university through 1997. He was the announcer for the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1958 through 1993, broadcasting four Super Bowls. His 1972 call of the “immaculate reception, considered the greatest play in National Football League history, still airs perennially through NFL Films.
Feb. 3, 1961: The West Virginia legislature passed a resolution to officially adopt “The West Virginia Hills” as an official state song. ‘‘The West Virginia Hills’’ is the best-known of four official state songs. In September 1885, the Glenville Crescent newspaper published the four-verse poem, credited to Ellen Ruddell King. The music was composed by Henry Everett Engle of Gilmer County who also added the words for the chorus. Engle copyrighted the music in 1886. The movement to adopt ‘‘The West Virginia Hills’’ as the official state song began with the West Virginia Music Educators Association in 1960. C. Buell Agey of West Virginia Wesleyan College prepared a definitive edition which was approved by the association’s executive board and the state music consultant.
Feb. 4, 1845: Doddridge County was formed from parts of Harrison, Lewis, Ritchie, and Tyler counties. It was named for Philip Doddridge, a Western Virginia congressman, state legislator, and member of the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1829–30.
Feb. 4, 1945: The hotel at Minnehaha Springs was destroyed by fire. Built in 1914, it was the first facility in Pocahontas County built strictly for the tourist business and was a forerunner of today’s local tourism economy. In the early 1900s, residents began to look at the spring, with its large flow, constant temperature, and alleged medicinal properties, as the future of their community. In 1912, the Minnehaha Springs Improvement Company was formed, and a bathing pool opened to the public. A two-story hotel building, on the hill above the spring, was completed in 1914. It had several owners and was open only sporadically over the years. A more successful use of the property has been as a summer youth camp, beginning in 1944 and continuing to the present. The camp, now named Twin Creeks, was for boys before becoming coed in 2001.
Feb. 5, 1889: Fiddler and self-taught physician James Franklin “Doc” White was born near Ivydale. Doc White served the community as a doctor, dentist, and midwife, without the benefit of formal medical training. He honed his skills by apprenticing under local doctors and dentists and by reading every medical book he could get his hands on. It was estimated that White delivered more than 1,800 babies throughout the hollows of Clay County, and he routinely made house calls to residents too ill to visit his office. In addition, White served as a justice of the peace in Clay County for more than 30 years.
Feb. 5, 1890: Coach Eli Camden ‘‘Cam’’ Henderson was born in Joetown, Marion County. He was known as an innovator in basketball and football. In basketball, he is widely credited with pioneering the zone defense as well as the modern fast break. In football, he reportedly helped originate the double-wing offense. Henderson grew up in Harrison County and attended Glenville State Normal College (now Glenville State College), where he played football, basketball, and baseball. Two years after graduation, Henderson was the principal of Bristol High School where he initiated the school’s athletic program. In 1935, he moved to Marshall College (now University) to coach football and basketball. The high point of his basketball coaching career came in 1947 when Marshall won the NAIB national tournament in Kansas City. Later that year, Henderson led the football team to a 9-2 regular season. Henderson remains Marshall’s all-time winningest basketball coach (362-16), and his record in football (68-46-5) held until 2001. The college’s basketball arena, the Cam Henderson Center, is named for him. Henderson remains Marshall’s all-time winningest basketball coach (362-16), and his record in football (68-46-5) held until 2001. The college’s basketball arena, the Cam Henderson Center, is named for him.
Feb. 5, 1941: Actor David Lynn Selby was born in Morgantown. His stage and screen credits include the outdoor drama Honey in the Rock, and the television shows Falcon Crest and Dark Shadows.
Feb. 6, 1882: Poet Anne Spencer was born Annie Bethel Bannister in Henry County, Virginia. In 1886, she and her mother moved to Bramwell, where she spent most of her childhood and adolescent years.
Feb. 6, 2007: Selva Lewis “Lew” Burdette, a native of Nitro, died in Florida. Burdette was an outstanding major league baseball player who spent most of his career with the Milwaukee Braves. In 18 major league seasons, he won 203 games and lost 144.
e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia is a project of the West Virginia Humanities Council. For more information, contact the West Virginia Humanities Council, 1310 Kanawha Blvd. E., Charleston, WV 25301; (304) 346-8500; or visit e-WV at www.wvencyclopedia.org.