Wednesday, June 20, 2007

WV Day!

I'm kinda sick-as-dog today. I seem to have developed some kind of flu-type illness that is kicking my ass. So, the last thing I feel like doing is eating. But, it's West Virginia Day so I wanted to give a shout-out to my home state and to all the Moutaineers (and honorary Mountaineers) in the house. Here's Senator Byrd's WV Day speech from 2003. It's a good one! Montani Semper Liberi!
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Remarks by U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd
June 20, 2003

Happy Birthday, West Virginia!

It is that time of year again.

It is that time when the flowers are in full bloom and birds are chirping the sweetest and the loudest. It is that time when you feel most like breathing the clean, fresh air blowing in from the Appalachian mountains. The time of year when you feel most like taking your loved one by the hand and strolling, arm in arm, through your favorite park knowing that all is right with the world -- and all is right with the world because it is West Virginia Day!

June 20th is West Virginia Day. I am celebrating this glorious day. It was 140 years ago that West Virginia became a State. It was on June 20, 1863, the Reverend J.T. McLure offered the State's inaugural prayer. Referring to the fact that the State was created in the middle of the American Civil War, he prayed:

"We pray Thee, almighty God, that this State, born amidst tears and blood and fire and desolation, may long be preserved and from its little beginning may grow to be a might and a power that shall make those who come after us look upon it with joy and gladness and pride of heart."

I am pleased and proud to say, 140 years later, that I can look upon my West Virginia with "joy and gladness and pride of heart." On this West Virginia Day, I again want to speak about the people of West Virginia, the hardest-working and most patriotic people in the United States. They have endured hardships, poverty, and floods of biblical proportions, but have remained loyal to their state and our Nation. Whenever the country has needed them, in war or in peace, they have always been there, and I have always been so proud to represent them in the United States Senate.

On this West Virginia Day, I again speak about the splendors of my State -- truly one of the most beautiful states in the Nation. With its rushing, trout-filled mountain streams, its majestic rolling green hills, picturesque villages and towns, magnificent forests, scenic state parks -- no wonder the State has been depicted in song and verse as being "almost heaven." There are the State's natural beauties like Seneca Rocks and the New River Gorge. There are the State's natural wonders like Cranberry Glades, Hawks Nest, and Berkeley Springs.

You can go camping in West Virginia's beautiful parks like Cooper's Rock State Forest, Babcock, Pipestem, or Watoga. You can go fishing in the Greenbrier river, Holly River, and Tygart Lake. You can take a ski trip in the wondrous Canaan Valley, or go white- water rafting down the magnificent Cheat River. Go hiking along the awesome Appalachian Trial.

Simply drive around the state and enjoy a pace and a view far different than the drives most of us suffer through daily. I invite my colleagues, the people in the galleries, people everywhere, to take a drive in West Virginia. You will love it. You will never forget it.

I have often spoken enthusiastically of the "wild and wonderful" scenery of West Virginia. Therefore, on this, the 140th anniversary of my great and glorious State, I want to tell you about its history.

Some of my State's history is well-known and well-documented; like the fact that it is the only state created from another state without the parent state's permission, and that it is the only state to achieve statehood by the proclamation of a president (Abraham Lincoln). It can be argued that the first battle of the American Revolution took place at Point Pleasant and that the last battle of the Revolution was fought at Fort Henry, in Wheeling. The State is rich in Civil War history; at Harpers Ferry, John Brown began the bloody quest to finally eliminate the scourge of slavery from this nation, and the first significant land battle of the Civil War took place at Phillipi, on June 3, 1861.

But there is another, lesser known, side to my State's history that I want to talk about today -- a history that shows what a unique, diversified, and fascinating state West Virginia really is.

Most of my colleagues are aware that West Virginia's political history includes providing the Senate's Majority Leader, the Senate's Minority Leader, the chairman of the Senate Appropriation's Committee, and the second longest serving Senator in American history -- and that was all one person, me! But I proudly point out that my State's political history includes the first African American woman, Minnie Buckingham Harper of Welch, to ever serve in a state legislature (1928). In 1934, West Virginians elected the youngest person ever elected by popular vote to the United States Senate -- Rush D. Holt . (His son, Rush Holt, now represents the State of New Jersey in the Congress).

Most people are aware of the importance of coal to West Virginia, and the importance of West Virginia coal to the Nation. For nearly a century, West Virginia coal helped fuel America's industries, heat our homes and power our battleships. But West Virginia's natural resources have also included America's first natural gas well (1815, near Charleston) and the world's largest gas well, "Big Moses" in Tyler County, which was drilled in 1894 and produced 100,000,000 cubic feet of gas per day. In 1941, the first and largest synthetic rubber plant in the United States began operation near Charleston.

There is so much to see and do in West Virginia. There is nature. There is beauty. There is history.

With the State's modern highway system, you can drive to Weirton, West Virginia, and see the only city in the United States that stretches from a state's eastern border all the way to its western border.

At Grafton, West Virginia, you can visit Andrews Church, which, on May 10, 1908, was the site of the first celebration of Mother's Day. Just a few hours away, near Thomas, West Virginia, is a unique, picturesque little church, Our Lady of the Pines, once considered the smallest church in the United States.

You can travel to Charles Town, West Virginia, and see where rural free mail delivery began in 1896 and see the Court House in which more than 500 coal miners went on trial for treason and insurrection in 1922.

Speaking of labor history, drive over to Martinsburg and see where the great railroad strike of 1877 began, or down to Logan County, West Virginia, and view the site of the largest labor uprising in American history, the Battle of Blair Mountain.

West Virginia also has a fascinating business history. The first trust in the United States was the salt trust organized in 1817 by the salt manufacturers along the Kanawha River. The first patent for a soda fountain was granted to George Dulty, of Wheeling, West Virginia, in 1833 and outdoor advertising had its origins in that same city in 1908. The first municipally owned parking building in the United States opened in Welch, in 1941.

Sports history, West Virginia has that too. Colliers, West Virginia, on June 1, 1880, was the site of the first barenuckles heavyweight championship fight. At Burnsville, in 1960, Danny Heater scored 135 points in a single basketball game, for which he is in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Finally, let me invite you to drive over to Ritchie County, West Virginia, and see where history was made when a Mountain was made from a Mole Hill – literally. It actually happened. It happened when the good people of the town of Mole Hill, West Virginia, decided to change the name of their town. They changed it to, you guessed it, Mountain.

On this the 140th anniversary of West Virginia, we will welcome you.

On this, the 140th anniversary of West Virginia, I say happy birthday, West Virginia. Congratulations, West Virginia.

"Born amidst tears and blood and fire and desolation," in the words of Reverend Mr. McLure, from a "little beginning" you have grown "to be a might and a power" that has made us look upon you " with joy and gladness and pride of heart."

West Virginia

This was no land for lily-fingered men
Who bowed and scraped and danced a neat quadrille,
In towns and cities far beyond the ken
Of mountaineers - - who loved each rock and rill.

It was a place for lean, tall men with love
For freedom flowing strongly in their veins,
For those attuned to vagrant stars above,
To rugged peaks, deep snows and June-time rains.

And so our State was whelped in time of strife
And cut its teeth upon a cannon ball;
Its heritage was cleaner, better life,
Within the richest storehouse of them all.

With timber, oil and gas and salt and coal,
It bargained in the world's huge marketplace.
The mountain empire reached a mighty goal;
It never ran a pauper's sordid race.

And best of all, it sired a hardy flock
Whose fame will grow with centuries to be,
Tough as a white-oak stump or limestock rock,
The mountaineers - - who always shall be free.

-- Roy Lee Harmon

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