Governor Names Sesquicentennial Commission

Oct. 1, 2009

Governor Manchin names West Virginia Sesquicentennial Commission 
Scholars and historians included on panel

Gov. Joe Manchin has named scholars and historians from around the state to the West Virginia Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Commission.  The 13-member commission includes representatives from the Legislature and key state agencies who will serve through 2015. 

The commission will plan and promote state activities for observances of the 150th anniversaries of John Brown’s raid at Harpers Ferry this October, the American Civil War and West Virginia statehood, which will be celebrated statewide in 2013 with a special event at West Virginia Independence Hall in Wheeling. 

 “As the only state named by presidential decree, and as a state that was born out of the Civil War, West Virginia has special reason to acknowledge the 150th anniversary of the conflict,” Manchin said.  “Our state was the site of several significant battles, including the first land battle at Philippi, and our people found themselves in divided homes as loyalties to the Union and the Confederacy tore families apart.

“This commission is developing plans to encourage continued preservation of our Civil War heritage, identifying economic development opportunities for historic and cultural tourism, and promoting the study of West Virginia and Civil War history,” he said.

Legislation to establish the commission was introduced in the 2009 legislative session by Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin, D-Logan, and Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley.  The legislature provided $100,000 to sponsor the commission and its activities. 

“Our charge will be to promote events and increase visits to existing Civil War sites while looking for opportunities to expand preservation, tourism, research and educational programs,” said Kay Goodwin, Secretary of Education and the Arts and chairman of the commission.  “Along with the work we do in our own state, we will be cooperating with other states and Civil War organizations that are celebrating this anniversary.”            

The community members of the commission are:

  • Peter Carmichael, Ph.D., of Morgantown is the Eberly Professor of Civil War Studies at West Virginia University
  • Sheila Coleman-Castells of Eglon is president and CEO of Sangha Consulting, Inc. and a lecturer at Frostburg State University.  She specializes in cultural diversity in education.
  • Arthur E. DeMatteo, Ph.D., of Glenville is assistant professor of History for the Glenville State College Department of Social Sciences
  • Connie Park Rice, Ph.D., of Morgantown is a lecturer in the Department of History at West Virginia University and assistant editor of West Virginia History: A Journal of Regional Studies.  Rice focuses on African American and Appalachian regional history.
  • Mark Snell, Ph.D., of Shepherdstown is professor of history at Shepherd University, director of the university’s George Tyler Moore Center for the Study of the Civil War at Shepherd University and a noted scholar of military history, the Civil War and Reconstruction.  He is vice chairman of the commission.
  • Victor Thacker, Ph.D., of Elkins is Provost and Dean of Faculty at Davis and Elkins College.  He is a Civil War editor and lecturer, member of the West Virginia Division of Tourism Civil War Trails Task Force and a board member of the Rich Mountain Battlefield Foundation.
  • Beth White of Dunbar is a published Civil War historian and lecturer on Civil War era subjects.  She developed and serves as program director of the Civil War Scholars Lecture Series, is president of the Kanawha Valley Civil War Roundtable and is a member of the West Virginia Civil War Trails Task Force
  • Richard Wolfe of Bridgeport is a program manager for Lockheed Martin.  He is president of Rich Mountain Battlefield Foundation and has taken the lead on the West Virginia Division of Tourism Civil War Trails Task Force.  He is recognized for his knowledge of West Virginia soldiers and their regiments.

Members of the commission who represent the state are:

  • Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley serves as Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin’s representative
  • A delegate will be named from the House of Delegates
  • Betty Carver, Commissioner of the West Virginia Division of Tourism
  • Kay Goodwin, Secretary of Education and the Arts, who will serve as chairman of the commission
  • Randall Reid-Smith, Commissioner of the West Virginia Division of Culture and History.  

The mission of the West Virginia Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Commission is to promote awareness and celebrate the unique creation of the State of West Virginia, the role of its citizens during the Civil War era, and the continuing effect of the war on our people.

* All photographs are courtesy of the West Virginia State Archives
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