My wife and I watched the movie “Hidden Figures” over the weekend, and the best part was discovering that one of the three main characters, Katherine Johnson, is a West Virginia native.
Here’s what WVU Magazine had to say in a story about Johnson and other “Barrier Breakers“:
I love learning the stories of famous West Virginians, especially those whose successes shatter the stereotypes of the great Mountain State as the land of hillbillies, rednecks and rubes. You can learn more about Johnson via NASA, which ended its story about her by saying, “Not bad, for a little girl from West Virginia.”
Here’s what President Obama had to say about Johnson when awarding her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, followed by the text of the award citation:
Filed under: Government and History and Movies and People and Technology and Video and West Virginia
Some Americans are so irrational that they fear fellow humans just because they work in blue-collar jobs or like the National Rifle Association. People who don’t think the way they do, embrace the causes they hold dear or even eat at the fancy restaurants they like are “white trash” worthy of scorn.
USA Today columnist Glenn Reynolds shared a few recent anecdotes and quotes to illustrate this phobia, all of them in response to the election of Donald Trump as president:
As Reynolds notes, this kind of class bigotry isn’t new in America. It’s actually older than the country, as documented in great detail last year by historian Nancy Isenberg in the book “White Trash.” It is a dry read at times, but the stories in it are remarkable, in part because they stretch over hundreds of years.
The current angst among America’s elite shows that nothing has changed. Ironically, this new wave of narrow-mindedness started with the political ascension of a billionaire celebrity named Trump.
Filed under: Books and Culture and Hatin' On Rednecks and History and News & Politics and People and Rednecks
I spent many summer weeks of my youth at my grandfather’s property along Indian Creek in West Virginia, and as a teenager I hunted deer there occasionally. My and I have dreamed of owning it for two decades.
As of today, and thanks to generous parents, in life and in death, we do — all 35 acres, a house that probably should be condemned and an old shed assessed belong to us now. I now jointly own outright a piece of “Almost Heaven,” a dream fulfilled for any West Virginian.
It is a bittersweet moment, the transfer of the property coming as the result of my father death at age 78 in July. We’d rather have had him with us a while longer. But I smiled through the tears as we bought back into the family the half of the property that had gone to my uncle’s stepchildren after his death in 2010 and as my mother deeded her half to us.
The place we always called “the farm” henceforth shall be known as Rougeneck. It’s the perfect melding of my wife’s and my Louisiana and West Virginia family histories. (For those who didn’t know, rouge is French for “red” — think of Louisiana’s capital city, Baton Rouge, which means “Red Stick” — so the name of the property is the enlightened way of saying “redneck.”)
Here are a few pictures of the property and my family through the years:
Filed under: Family and History and Hunting & Guns and Photography and Rednecks and West Virginia
Today’s find at an antique store in Frederick, Md. — a postcard of the West Virginia Capitol with a 1942 postmark from Parkersburg, W.Va.
Based on the note, a Mrs. R.L. Kreyling was trading postcards with a Mr. John Howe of Irvington, N.J. She asked him to send her one of New Jersey’s Capitol because that was her favorite to collect.
A side story: I searched the name R.L. Kreyling for Parkersburg and discovered that one Robert L. Kreyling received a patent for an invention that “relates to manufacture of combined paper board and silicate-clay adhesives.” He assigned the patent to Philadelphia Quartz Co. in 1946.
Filed under: Advertising and History and Hobbies and West Virginia
Originally published on the FAA’s internal website and at Medium.
A few eventful minutes at work on Jan. 15, 2009, left an indelible mark in New York air traffic controller Patrick Harten’s mind. He constantly replayed those terrifying moments in his head in the weeks that followed, and although they ultimately ended with the inspiring tale known as “The Miracle on the Hudson,” Harten kept imagining the tragedy that might have been.
Now he is reliving those remarkable moments all over again — on the big screen via actor Patch Darragh, who plays Harten in the movie “Sully.” “I thought they did a great job capturing what it felt like to be there that day,” Harten said. “I’ve heard from some of the passengers, and they thought so, too. … Parts of it were tough to watch.”
The movie is based on the actual events surrounding the forced emergency landing of US Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson River. It happened on a cold winter afternoon a few minutes after takeoff from LaGuardia Airport in New York. A flock of Canada geese flew into the Airbus A320, taking out both engines at a low altitude.
Capt. Chesley (Sully) Sullenberger chose to land on the water after concluding that he didn’t have enough time to return to LaGuardia or to land at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey. Harten is the air traffic controller who talked to Sullenberger that day from the terminal radar approach control facility for several airports in the New York area. The Federal Aviation Administration’s TRACONs manage the airspace near airports, and New York TRACON is one of the busiest.
Harten, who first publicly shared his account of the incident in dramatic testimony to Congress, started his shift in the LaGuardia sector of the TRACON minutes before Flight 1549 took off. But soon after he issued a routine heading for the flight, Sullenberger reported the bird strike and double-engine loss. He headed back toward LaGuardia for an emergency landing.
Harten quickly arranged runway access there and communicated the details to Sullenberger. But 35 seconds after first reporting the emergency, the pilot uttered these ominous words: “We’re unable. We may end up in the Hudson.“
Sullenberger predicted that fate more definitively about a minute later, after Harten suggested a runway at Teterboro instead. “We can’t do it. … We’re gonna be in the Hudson.”
“I’m sorry, say again,” Harten responded. He then lost radar contact with Flight 1549.
“I thought I was part of one of the worst aviation incidents in modern history at the time,” Harten recounted. He imagined the plane clipping a wing on the water, cartwheeling and breaking into pieces. Even if it landed smoothly, he figured most people on board would drown or succumb to hypothermia. “I was expecting there to maybe be a handful of survivors.”
Read the rest of the story at Medium.
Filed under: Aviation and Government and History and Movies and News & Politics and People and Video
To hear many Americans tell it today, “The Star-Spangled Banner” has been a cherished anthem of national pride almost since the day Francis Scott Key penned it in 1814. But the government-sanctioned reverence the song enjoys in the 21st century actually didn’t take root until the start of the 20th century — and not everyone thought it was a good idea then.
The song gained plenty of attention, particularly in the military, after Scott wrote it to celebrate the American victory over the British at Fort McHenry in Maryland. But even the military didn’t start incorporating “The Star-Spangled Banner” into its flag-raising ceremonies until 1889. It took another 27 years for Woodrow Wilson to give the tune the stamp of presidential approval in an executive order.
The song’s evolution from battle hymn to national anthem still wasn’t complete, though, and the final hurdle on Capitol Hill wasn’t easy to clear. As the National Park Service noted in its history of the national anthem, 11 lawmakers tried to push 15 different bills and resolutions through Congress between 1910 and 1917, and all of them stalled.
Even after a determined Rep. J. Charles Linthicum, D-Md., adopted “The Star-Spangled Banner” as his personal cause in 1918, he had a years-long fight ahead of him. Congress didn’t clear the bill to President Herbert Hoover until March 3, 1931, a day before adjournment would have killed the idea yet again.
That brings us to a surprising editorial that the Baltimore Evening Sun published the day after Hoover signed the bill. With the amateur poet Key being a favorite son of the city, the newspaper had good reason to celebrate the patriotic development. But it saw cause for concern instead:
Eighty-five years later, the paper’s prophecy has been fulfilled. The new country that repelled the British in the Battle of Baltimore and the War of 1812 is now embroiled in a tense debate about police shootings of black Americans, and the anthem that united us then divides us now.
It’s not enough that “The Star-Spangled Banner” is played at memorial holidays, military ceremonies and athletic contests across the country, or that the vast majority of the nation’s 324 million people (including me) solemnly stand for it, sing it and revere the symbolism behind it. Every single American must embrace that norm or be reviled as an un-American outcast who should shut up or leave the country.
This, indeed, is an unfortunate fate for a fine song written in a Free State, for a free country.
Filed under: Government and History and Holidays and Media and Military and News & Politics and People
One of the most interesting yet tragic stories in the news today happened in Norway, where government wildlife officials found more than 300 dead reindeer on the top of a mountain. Here’s the story as told by NPR:
This catastrophe is interesting in its own right because it raises all kinds of questions in people’s minds. But it was even more compelling to me because it reminded me of another incident in West Virginia on July 2, 1990.
I have a notoriously bad memory, so the fact that I can recall a news story from 26 years ago, one that I didn’t even report myself, should tell you something. This story also involved a lightning strike — but the victims were amateur archers who took shelter under a pavilion during a pop-up thunderstorm. Twenty-four of them ended up injured.
I was a reporter at the Dominion Post in Morgantown at the time, but my beat was covering city, state and federal government and political campaigns. Plus the incident happened on a Sunday, when I wasn’t working. But I remember being enthralled by the story upon reading the details when I got to the newsroom the next day.
The reindeer story triggered that memory, so to get the details, I reached out to the Aull Center, a branch of the Morgantown Public Library System that has old copies of the Dominion Post on microfilm. Librarian Gary Friggens was kind enough to look up the front-page story and send me an electronic copy.
“Victims had been tossed into the air and suffered burns, cuts, contusions and internal injuries,” one of the three stories said.
One father said the lightning strike lifted his son off the ground and knocked him 10-15 feet away. He lost his hearing for a few minutes and heard only the groaning and moaning around him when his hearing returned. Another victim, whose heart stopped temporarily, lost feeling in his legs and had burns on his chest.
“All I could see were blue streaks all around us,” said one victim from the Kingwood Pike Coon Hunters Club. “We were all so close together under there that we were touching shoulders. The lightning just passed right through us. I remember the blue streaks, then everything went black.”
A year later, Keith Dalton recounted his experience that day as part of a broader AP story about people who have been struck by lightning:
Nightmare scenarios like that, along with tales of golfers being struck by lightning and childhood memories of being stuck outside and by myself during thunderstorms, are the reason I am terrified of lightning to this day.
My storm-watching wife loves to tell people about the time, on our honeymoon no less, that I abandoned her because of my fear of lightning. We were in the parking lot at an Outback Steakhouse in Asheville, N.C. A bright light flashed in the sky, a ground-shaking boom followed, and I high-tailed it to the restaurant without her.
To this day, she insists that I jumped so high and bolted so quickly, I looked like Wile E. Coyote running on the air. I think she embellishes the story a little more each time she tells it, but I can’t dispute the basic facts. My terror, which I’ve unfortunately passed along to our youngest child, is that great.
Now my daughter and I have the memory of 323 dead deer to add to our anxiety.
Filed under: History and Human Interest and Media and News & Politics and Weather and West Virginia and Wildlife
Comments: 1 Comment
Originally published on the FAA’s internal website and at Medium
Piecing together history can be as difficult as solving a complex jigsaw puzzle, and sometimes you never can fill all the slots. So it is with determining the exact role the FAA played in naming the president’s airplane — but the agency definitely was part of the discussion back in 1954.
The origin of the call sign Air Force One became newsworthy this past March when a restored Lockheed Constellation took flight for the first time in more than a decade. The aircraft’s given name is Columbine II, but it was also the first presidential aircraft to be called Air Force One. Now the plane’s new owner, Karl Stoltzfus of Dynamic Aviation in Bridgewater, Va., wants everyone to know the true story behind the name, not the myths floating around the Internet.
“I’m not interested in a ‘better’ story,” said Stoltzfus, who has contacted presidential and Air Force historians and the former personal secretary of Air Force One pilot William Draper. “I’m interested in accurate history.”
The history of Columbine II began at a Lockheed factory in Burbank, Calif., in 1948. It left the plant with the tail number 48–610, a designation that would become important six years later. Lockheed Air Service used the plane for shuttle flights between New York and Iceland for a few months in 1949, but it was converted from military transport to a VIP aircraft in 1950.
This particular Constellation served the U.S. Air Force secretary until Dwight D. Eisenhower was elected president in November 1952. The plane’s first mission for the president-elect fulfilled his campaign promise to personally visit Korea in an effort to end the Korean War. Weeks later the plane officially became Eisenhower’s aircraft, and he named it Columbine II after the flower of wife Mamie Eisenhower’s adopted home state, Colorado.
The transfer of the plane to presidential service set the stage for a momentous air traffic control encounter involving Columbine II and a commercial flight with a similar call sign. But nailing down the details of that incident is a herculean research task.
“There are about six different urban legends out there on the Internet,” said Air Force historian Robert Spiers, who started the legwork in 2007 after numerous queries about how Air Force One got its name. Some stories, like the fanciful tale of a mid-air collision that damaged the undercarriage of Columbine II with Eisenhower on board, are far-fetched.
“If that had actually happened,” Spiers said, “it would have been all over the media.”
Read the rest of the story at Medium.
Filed under: Aviation and Government and History and Human Interest and Military and People
If you’ve never heard of Nathaniel Bettes, read this story about his contributions to the cause of American Revolution. He was a true patriot.
But my favorite anecdote from his life has nothing to do with the sacrifices he made for liberty. Instead, I liked the answer he gave the deacons of his church when they scolded him for hunting on a Sunday, a violation of what many Americans consider the “Christian Sabbath.”
This was Bettes’ defense:
Surely that is somewhere in the Bible.
Filed under: History and Hunting & Guns and Rednecks and Religion
The ignorance of the media when it comes to West Virginia never ceases to amaze those of us who are from the Mountain State. We’re impressed when journalists, especially those who cover sports, even know that West Virginia and Virginia are separate states or that Charleston is the name of our state capital, not just a coastal city in South Carolina.
This week, two members of the media (broadly speaking to include Hollywood) displayed their ignorance of West Virginia’s history on the same day, both of them in reference to the state’s birth during the Civil War. The culprits were:
With their commentaries in mind, now is a good time to revisit one of the most interesting statehood stories in American history. Consider this the CliffsNotes version of West Virginia history for the dummies in the media and entertainment complex.
In fairness to Bump, he was technically correct when he said “Congress consented to the creation of West Virginia as a new American state,” but he left out important context. The Congress that consented included a reconstituted Virginia delegation with a pro-West Virginia slant. The Virginia that existed before the Civil War joined the Confederacy and had no votes in Congress. Neither did any of the Southern states that presumably would have voted against West Virginia statehood.
The war, in other words, created a political and constitutional mess that tilted the balance of power in favor of West Virginia statehood.
Although ardent abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens, R-Pa., voted to create West Virginia, he thought it was “a mockery” to say that splitting Virginia was constitutional. President Abraham Lincoln also had doubts. He thought the idea was “dreaded as a precedent” but also “made expedient by a war.” His answer to charges that the Union in effect endorsed secession in one case while going to war over it in another: In West Virginia’s case, it was “secession in favor of the Constitution.”
I understand why Bump didn’t include all of that information. His story was about the potential legality of secession in America today, and West Virginia’s path to statehood was only one aspect of that topic. But his shorthand account of the events could mislead people into thinking West Virginia’s secession from Virginia wasn’t controversial. It was. The Supreme Court didn’t settle the issue until a 6-3 ruling in 1870.
Ross’ gaffe was more egregious than Bump’s. In trying to dispel one myth that “the South was monolithic” during the Civil War, he repeated another one — that “the State of West Virginia broke off from the State of Virginia because they were not in agreement with the goals of the Confederacy.”
That simplistic analysis is similar to arguing that the Civil War was about states’ rights instead of slavery, one of the myths that Ross tackled. Southern rebellion was more of an expediency for western Virginians to accomplish a goal they had long desired than it was a rejection of the Confederacy.
This is evident in the number of West Virginians who fought for the Confederacy — 18,000 of them compared with 32,000 for the Union. The one thing that even those who are ignorant of West Virginia associate with the state is the Hatfield-McCoy feud. What many of them don’t know, or have forgotten, is that the feud has its roots in the Civil War and that “Devil Anse” Hatfield of West Virginia fought for the Confederacy.
The division of the country over slavery in general, and Virginia’s decision to side with the South in particular, just created an atmosphere for a rebellion within the rebellion. West Virginians always were and always will be different from Virginians, and the war gave our ancestors the political clout they needed to create a geographical split that had existed along economical, ancestral and cultural lines for generations. Ross’ myth-busting video for The Huffington Post distorted that reality.
The mistakes that Bump and Ross made weren’t as superficial as getting the name of West Virginia wrong or forgetting about its capital city. But coming as they did only seven days after West Virginia Day, they were worth noting.
Maybe in the future journalists who care enough to research West Virginia history before they write or talk about it will find this blog post and get some much-needed education.
Filed under: Blogging and History and Media and People and West Virginia
Comments: 1 Comment
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