(Editor’s note: Following are short biographies of the remaining 12 individuals included in the inaugural class of the Fayette County Wall of Honor. The first honorees were printed in the July 1 edition of The Fayette Tribune.)
Born Charles Ray McCoy in Oak Hill in 1941, the musician most often known as “Charlie” has played with many notable musicians including Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Ringo Starr and Bob Dylan. During his career, he has recorded nearly 40 albums and been awarded a Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Performance. He has been inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and the West Virginia Musicians Hall of Fame. He is frequently a studio musician for numerous artists including his harmonica work for Roy Orbison; he has also been hired to work for Chet Atkins. For 19 years, he worked as music director for the popular television show “Hee Haw.” He has been awarded two Country Music Association Awards and seven Academy of Country Music Awards.
Marian McQuade was born in 1917 in the town of Caperton in Fayette County, a town now referred to as a “Gorge Ghost Town.” After she married her husband Joe, they had 15 children. She got interested in honoring senior citizens after she helped to organize a birthday party for people over 80. She was eventually appointed to the West Virginia Commission on Aging, and she constantly encouraged people to visit nursing homes and listen to the stories of senior citizens. She also got the idea to set aside a day to honor grandparents. Grandparents Day was first celebrated in West Virginia, and in 1978, President Jimmy Carter made it a national holiday. On the 10th anniversary of this special day, the Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp with a picture of McQuade, the founder of Grandparents Day.
Educator and civil rights supporter, Lucile Meadows also served in the West Virginia Legislature starting in 1990. While still a teen, Meadows became active in the NAACP. As an adult, she received the Martin Luther King “Living the Dream Award.” She organized the Fayette County Black Caucus, which sponsored the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Luncheon. This luncheon always attracted politicians who hoped to receive her blessing, but she always made sure young people attended and could receive savings bonds dedicated to their education. She earned many awards for her continued work to promote racial equality and education. This Fayetteville resident was also appointed to many state committees whose purpose was also equality and education. Former Governor Gaston Caperton also appointed her to the State Ethics Committee.
Born in 1882 in Gauley Bridge, MacGillivray Milne became the 27th Governor of American Samoa in 1936. Even Milne recognized his name was long and hard to spell and pronounce. So in official communications, he signed his letters “M. Milne.” While he was in Samoa, he and his wife tried to modernize the area. His wife Natalie even appealed directly to First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt for help to improve in-door plumbing and sanitation on the island. He was a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and served in many conflicts, including both world wars.
Okey L. Patteson
Raised in Mount Hope, a 1932 hunting accident cost Okey Patteson both his legs. His legs were amputated below the knees, but he went on to succeed in business and politics. He became a Fayette County Sheriff and a Fayette County Commissioner. Later, he became personal assistant for Governor Clarence Meadows. He followed Meadows to the governorship and became West Virginia’s 23rd governor. During his term, he agreed to place the state’s first medical school in Morgantown. The road leading to West Virginia University Hospitals in named Patteson Lane in his honor. Also during his term, he started the initial construction of the West Virginia Turnpike.
Christopher Harrison Payne
Born free, but during the Civil War, he was compelled to serve as a body servant in the Confederate Army. After the war, he set his sights on education and eventually earned a doctor of divinity degree from the State University of Louisville, Kentucky. In addition to his interests in politics and pastoral care, he also edited or founded three newspapers, “The Pioneer” and “The Mountain Eagle” were both published in Montgomery. In 1888, he became West Virginia’s first elected black legislator. In 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt appointed him as consul general to the Danish West Indies. The citizens there elected him as judge advocate, and he stayed in the islands until he died.
Born in Ansted in 1889, Paul Peck grew up to be West Virginia’s first pilot. He learned to fly in seven days and within two weeks captured a world record. He was the 57th person licensed by the International Aeronautics Federation, and he was the first person to fly over the U.S. Capitol. At the nation’s first military aviation school in College Park, he was an instructor. He earned both speed and endurance records as a pilot, but sadly he died young in 1912 when his plane disintegrated in the air. Even after his death, Peck made history. According to Gazette reporter Sandy Wells, his funeral was Washington’s first automobile funeral with a motor hearse and wagon and followed by about 30 automobiles.
Larry Thomas Pridemore
Larry Thomas Pridemore started his successful career in football at Ansted High School. He was part of a record-setting high school team that won 36 straight games on their way to two state championships. He was inducted into the West Virginia University Hall of Fame in 2001 and holds some WVU records that still stand, including “longest interception returned for a touchdown.” He was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons, and he is still ranked sixth on the Atlanta’s all-time pick list. While a member of the Falcons team, he was elected to the West Virginia House of Delegates. He is the only NFL player to hold this legislative office while he was playing professional football.
Charles Calvin Rogers
Charles Calvin Rogers was born in the tiny community of Claremont near Thurmond, but before he retired, he had risen to the rank of Major General and earned a Medal of Honor. He received his Medal of Honor in 1970 for actions he took during the Vietnam War. In the war, his base came under heavy fire, and he was wounded several times. He was even knocked down by fire, but “sprang to his feet,” according to the information that accompanied his medal. Though wounded several times during the assault, he “moved from position to position through heavy enemy fire, giving encouragement and direction to his men,” the medal information continued. After he retired from fighting, Rogers became a Baptist minister.
J. Alfred Taylor
J. Alfred Taylor was a politician and a publisher. In 1916, he was elected to the House of Delegates and eventually became Speaker of the House. He was the first speaker to serve in the newly-built Capitol building in Charleston. In 1922, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. He ran unsuccessfully for Governor of West Virginia and also served on the Fayette County Board of Education. He published his newspaper “The State Sentinel” in Fayetteville.
Nell Elizabeth Walker
She earned two nicknames in her eventful life. One name is the “First Lady of Fayette County” after she served 12 terms in the House of Delegates. In 1956, she became the State Banking Commissioner. While she worked as vice president and cashier at the Winona National Bank, she earned her other nickname “Pistol Nell.” The bank was robbed three times, and during one hold-up, she managed to smuggle a pistol to a bank official who shot and wounded the robber. She also served as a Red Cross ambulance driver in France during World War I.
Mount Hope native Lonnie Warwick played 10 seasons for the National Football League; the linebacker played for the Minnesota Vikings and the Atlanta Falcons. He started in Super Bowl IV.
Carter G. Woodson
Historian, scholar and teacher, Carter G. Woodson would continue his quest for knowledge and ultimately become the father of black history. The Woodson family first moved to West Virginia after Woodson’s father learned that a high school for black students was to be built in Huntington. Woodson worked tirelessly to educate himself, and he moved to Fayette County where he found work as a coal miner. But he always set aside time to pursue education, and he taught in Winona. He was eventually awarded a doctorate from Harvard University, making him the second black person to do so after W.E.B. DuBois. But he was the first person whose parents were slaves to receive a doctorate from Harvard. He was the founder of the “Journal of Negro History” and the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. As his studies continued, he realized the history of African Americans was too often overlooked or misinterpreted. He set out to preserve African American history, and he was successful in having African American history celebrated in the month of February, the birthday month for both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. When he died, Woodson was still working on his six-volume Encyclopedia Africana.