Exponent View, Saturday, Feb. 20, 1999

Valley Head adults helping point young people in right direction

    Last Monday, in the Exponent and Telegram, we introduced you to a semi-retired fishing enthusiast who found a second home in the Randolph County town of Valley Head. David Mace could have been content just casting his line, but he has also taken on a more important task: To find constructive and fun activities for the area's young people.
   Working with United Methodist pastor Charlene Hamrick, Mace has been busy in recent months organizing Easter egg hunts, pizza parties and trips to the movies. Later this month he'll be taking a group of young people snow tubing at Snowshoe.
    Mace was struck by the contrast between the youth in Valley Head and his own grandchildren in North Carolina. His grand kids had plenty of activities in which to participate. The Valley Head kids didn’t have much of anything to do.
He decided something needed to be done, especially after the deaths of three local young people last year. Together, Mace and Hamrick formed a youth fellowship and began training other adults to counsel and mentor the area's youth.
    Now, Mace, Hamrick and others are hoping to develop a community center where young people can gather. That won't be an easy task because the money just isn't there. And there are no businesses in the area to help finance such a project.
But they press on, and continue to keep young folk busy and pointed in a positive direction.
    Not only are they positive role models for the kids, but they certainly can set an example for adults anywhere. They have taken on the monumental task of seeing to the needs of young people. We're certain the fruits of their labors will be evident for years to come.
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.

Telegram View, Saturday, Feb. 20, 1999

Dragging death trial should pull death penalty bill off the shelf

    Another death penalty bill designed to punish convicted first-degree murderers was introduced in the House Judiciary Committee of the West Virginia Legislature on January 13. Statehouse sources say that is where the measure remains. That is a sad state of affairs indeed.
    Death penalty legislation, each session for the last several years, has had to wait on its own "death row" in the Legislature before dying a slow death. This is no way to bring about a major deterrent to the premeditated killing of other human beings.
We were reminded of the horrendous effect a murder can have on a community early this week. Trial began Monday in Jasper, Texas, for the first of three white men charged in the heinous killing of James Byrd Jr., a 49-year-old black man who was dragged to death behind a pickup truck.
    The suspect, 24-year-old John William King, has claimed allegiance to a white supremacist group. He supposedly was the ringleader of the trio who picked up the victim, then beat him, chained him to the back of the truck and dragged him down a country road.
    If convicted, King faces life in prison or death by lethal injection. Texas has shown that it is not a bit bashful about executing convicted murderers.
    West Virginians should never be so complacent as to believe such a terrible act could not, or would not, be committed in the Mountain State. If an individual knows the death penalty is possible if he or  she is convicted of first-degree murder, yet follows through with it anyway, think what the possibilities would be in a state where there is no death penalty.
Granted, condemning a person to death should never be taken lightly to the point of putting another notch in the IV pole that holds the lethal dose.
    Still it is a shame when juries fail to convict those guilty of planning the deaths of others. It is equally as bad if they do convict and the judges fail to hand down a penalty strong enough to prevent other such acts because their hands are tied by the law.
     First-degree murder verdicts in West Virginia have shown no significant indications of decreasing. That is why the death penalty bill must be retrieved from the House Judiciary Committee and be allowed to pass through the various channels, and then, for a change, be approved by the full Legislature.
Robert F. Stealey
Telegram editorial board chairman

Rediscovering my racing roots

    During my college days, I had a friend who would drag me off every once in a while to some remote dirt track or county fairground in Ohio to watch him race sprint cars.
    And in the 1980s, while working as a reporter for The Indianapolis Star, I actually attended five straight Indianapolis 500 races at the famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
    In 1986, in fact, I was on the track, right in front of pole-sitter Bobby Rahal, when the starter gave the command, "Gentlemen, start your engines!" And Rahal, whose pit I was assigned to cover that day, went on to win that year's race.
Pretty exciting stuff, huh?
    Since leaving Indy in 1987, however, I must confess that I've pretty much lost interest in all types of auto racing. And yes, I've even turned down numerous invitations to travel back to Indianapolis for the 500 and for the popular NASCAR race held there now, the Brickyard 400.
    Auto racing, I decided at some point after 1987, is dumb. Think about it.
    Why would anyone spend lots of perfectly good money on race tickets knowing they were going to have to fight traffic for two hours just to get close to the race track? Why would anyone choose to fight through a bunch of drunks to get close to the men's room, sit on uncomfortable bleachers all day, eat bad food and leave town with a bad case of sunburn and a splitting headache?
    Or worse, why would anyone waste a perfectly good Saturday or Sunday afternoon sitting in front of the boob tube, watching a bunch of cars go around in circles?
    Wouldn't you rather be running rapids on a river, golfing or even bird-watching? Sorry sports fans, racing just ceased to turn this boy on.
    So it was that I had a pretty tough time coping with life in Clarksburg, W.Va., during the week leading up to last Sunday's Daytona 500. It seemed to me that the upcoming race was all anyone in town really wanted to talk about.
Are you going? Where are you going to watch it? Gordon or Earnhardt? Ford or Chevy?
Who cares?
I felt so alone.
Then, on Sunday, my world really came crashing down on me.
    My good friend Scuzzy Miller, a man for whom I have tremendous respect, a man whose intellect I'd compare with that of Alan Greenspan, announced on Sunday morning that he wanted to plan his day around the race.
My wife, Maryl, and I were stunned.
Scuz? Car racing? No way!
    But it was true. At high noon, Scuzzy flipped on the TV and settled down into the couch for a day of NASCAR racing.
Reluctantly, and mainly because we didn't want to be anti-social, Maryl and I sat down with him.
Immediately, we identified with the Lowe's car we've been spending a lot of money there lately trying to wrap up a few home improvement projects.
    Five laps turned into 10. Ten laps became 25. The lead changed hands. We yelled for the Lowe's car. Dale Earnhardt looked like his was trying to run other drivers into the wall!
Twenty-five laps turned into 180.
    I found myself sitting on the edge of my seat. The strategy! The jockeying! To pit or not to pit? This was exciting stuff!
Now, don't worry. Just because I enjoyed that one race doesn't mean I'll give up boating, or bird watching, to go follow the NASCAR circuit. And please, don't even think about inviting me to Darlington, S.C. in early September. It'll be too hot then, and besides, I'll be getting in shape for Gauley season.
    But, sitting there with Scuz last Sunday did make me remember how exciting auto racing can be. For a while, at least, I won't be thinking, or saying, that auto racing is dumb. And maybe, just maybe, I'll see if I can get one of my old buddies in Indianapolis to offer up some tickets for this year's Brickyard 400.

Executive Editor Bill Sedivy's column appears every Saturday.


Clarksburg Publishing Company, P.O. Box 2000, Clarksburg, WV 26302 USA
Copyright Clarksburg Publishing Company 1999