‘The 55 West Virginias’ — an important mini-history of state

by Bob Stealey

The following is a Bob’n’Along column reprinted from September 1998.

    As a columnist, many interesting things come to my attention, including publications that pertain to the Mountain State. Not so long ago, I received a copy of a paperback publication titled “The 55 West Virginias — A Guide to the State’s Counties.”
It was written by F. Lee North and this year is its second edition, containing updates from the first edition as well as the latest census figures.
    On the front and back covers is a beautiful, panoramic color photograph of downtown Parsons, nestled in the mountains of Tucker County. On the inside front cover is a picture of the Capitol and a number of other buildings in Charleston. Historic Harpers Ferry is captured in a color photo on the inside back cover.
    And, of course, on the inside pages are brief histories of each of the state’s 55 counties, as well as black and white photos.
E. Lee North is also the author of “Redcoats, Redskins and Red-Eyed Monsters,” which is a human interest history of West Virginia published by A.S. Barnes, Inc. He also wrote “She Produces All-Americans,” a history of football at his alma mater, Washington & Jefferson College, and a novel, “For This One Hour,” which was set in Poland  and Russia during World War II.
    In addition, he was editor of  the W & J undergraduate weekly, The Red and Black, for two years and a member of the History ad Journalism national honor societies. And after serving as sports editor of the Washington (Pa.) Reporter and publicity director at W & J, North worked as editor and proposal manager at Grumman Aerospace for 37 years. He retired in 1989.
    Two years later, North completed a history of the school’s century of football (1890-1990), “Battling the Indians, Panthers and Nittany Lions,” which includes much about West Virginia schools and players, as WVU was one of W & J’s top opponents from the 1890s into the 1930s.
    He co-authored two books —”Chris, the Rhode Island Wonder Dog,” with Jane Wyman, and “The History of Bay Shore (Long Island) High School Athletics,” with Arthur Dromerhauser.
    One feature of the publication was an author’s tribute to the late Jim Comstock, long-time editor of the Hillbilly. In letter form to Comstock’s widow, it was also undersigned by North’s wife, Florence.
    In it, he said:
“My heart grieves. West Virginia and the nation have lost a great man, a wonderful writer, and an accomplished historian.  More, we have all lost a dear friend.
“Florence and I extend our sincere sympathies to all of you who knew Jim so well, and of course mostly to you, Ola — so  often referred to in Jim’s loving way as the “poor wretch” who had to put up with him and his antics. And, of course, to all those of your and Jim’s wonderful family.”
    The tribute continued: “When I started work on a West Virginia history in the 1960s, Jim was right there with copies of the Hillbilly — sent dozens of them to me and never asked for a cent. And what a source of history they were! Nothing can compare, not even the WV Historical Society bulletins, which seemed to come out whenever someone felt like it. Jim also offered any personal help he could give, and he was the one primarily responsible for our work that was published b A.S. Barnes — “Redcoats, Redskins, and Red-Eyed Monsters” some 15 years ago.”
    After a few more paragraphs, North closed his tribute with these words: “I’d not be surprised to see Jim’s byline popping up again —I don’t see how Heaven will be able to slow him down.”

Is higher education in W.Va. getting out of reach?

    It’s almost a rite of spring. Along with the daffodils and robins comes the annual hike in tuition and fees at West Virginia’s two universities. At what point, we wonder, does higher education in this state become an unattainable goal for working families?
    The University System Board of Trustees voted on Friday to increase tuition at WVU and Marshall by 3 percent and to increase a variety of fees at both schools.
    Board member Joe Powell raised some pertinent questions during the meeting. He pointed out that West Virginia ranks 49th in the nation in per capita income. “I am concerned about access,” he said. “Sooner or later it eats away at that.
“We should not price anyone out of a college education.”
    In a state where we are finally turning the corner in encouraging more and more high school graduates to go to college, we seem to be shooting ourselves in our collective foot by making it increasingly more expensive to attend college.
    Most in-state undergrads at WVU will now have to pay $1,374 per semester. Their counterparts at Marshall will have to pay $1,228. Plus, many students will have to pay even more fees depending on the classes they take.
    That isn’t all. The State College System Board of Directors, which oversees the four-year colleges in West Virginia, meets next week and is likely to vote to raise tuition and fees as well.
    We understand that running colleges and universities is an expensive proposition, but 3 percent increases in tuition are much, much more than the rate of inflation.
    Yes, we’re benefitting somewhat from the thriving national economy, but the fact remains that this is a poor state. One in three children live in poverty in West Virginia. We’re not doing them any favors by jacking up tuition year after year.

Today’s editorial reflects the opinion of the Exponent editorial board, which includes William J. Sedivy, John G. Miller, Julie R. Cryser, James Logue, Kevin Courtney and Cecil Jarvis.

Don’t say military chiefs, CIA didn’t warn Clinton about
blunder in Kosovo

     If President Clinton finds that, like the people of Kosovo, he is isolated and under attack, it serves him right. He should have paid more attention when military and intelligence experts expressed caution about ordering air strikes on Yugoslavia.
 Notwithstanding the fact that Clinton was a draft-dodger during the Vietnam era, his credibility as commander in chief is more in question now than it has ever been during his term as president. Never has there been a foreign policy disaster as serious as Kosovo during his career.
     One thing should be made clear at the outset: Nobody can blame the Joint Chiefs of Staff or the Central Intelligence Agency for the president’s ineffective actions.
 Some staunch Clinton supporters may term as “bravado” their hero’s decision nearly three weeks ago to send fighter-bombers to the Baltic region. But to us, it is reminiscent of the words to an old standard: “Fools rush in where wise men never go.”
     Before his re-election to a second term as president in 1996 and before his Democrat cronies in Congress were up for election this past fall, Clinton was a regular opinion poll watcher. Now that he is a “lame duck” president and the off-year elections are over, the polls hardly seem to interest him.
     In our view, he should have been heeding something much more important than public opinion polls.
 Last Monday’s Washington Post reported that the Joint Chiefs of Staff had “expressed deep reservations about the Clinton administration’s approach to Kosovo and warned that bombing alone likely would not achieve its political aims.”
   A few weeks before the air strikes began, the military chiefs allegedly argued for tougher economic sanctions and questioned whether the interests of the U.S. were really that much at stake.
     The CIA’s reservations were also put on the record in the Post two weeks ago. CIA Director George Tenet was quoted as saying he had been “forecasting that Serb-led Yugoslav forces might respond by accelerating their campaign of ethnic cleansing in the province of Kosovo — precisely the outcome that has unfolded.”
     Also quoted in last week’s Post article was former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, who has served as an envoy to the region for the White House. But in an opinion piece, Dole wrote — at that point — that after nearly two weeks of bombing, “the U.S. administration still has not clearly articulated its political and military objectives. It is therefore little wonder that the results thus far have been less than a complete success.”
 Even the media has been questioning why Clinton remains committed to a policy that many experts say is failing.
 We do not believe that NATO — especially the United States — should be in the current “fix” in which it finds itself. Not if Clinton and some other NATO member leaders would have trusted Russian diplomats to negotiate with Yugoslav dictator Slobodan Milosevic to come up with a settlement to curb the ethnic cleansing and ethnic slaughter that has left the blood of many thousands of Kosovars and Albanians on that despot’s hands.
 Instead, NATO and Clinton have angered Russia with the initial and continued air strikes. The U.S. would be very unwise to count Russia out as a world power now.
 Michael Beschloss is one of the foremost historians of foreign policy, having written such books as “Kennedy vs. Krushchev — The Crisis Years.” He claims that Clinton is now finding himself isolated because “he has not done very much to build his reputation as a foreign policy or military leader.”
 Maybe Clinton is still not concerned about the critics. Maybe he ought to be.
Robert F. Stealey
Telegram Editorial Page chairman


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Copyright Clarksburg Publishing Company 1999