Ask A Librarian

Historian tackles West Virginia’s past and present in upcoming talks

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
August 3rd, 2018

West Virginia was known as a solidly Democratic state for most of the 20th century, but that has changed in the 21st century.

Renowned historian John Alexander Williams will make sense of this dramatic shift in a talk on Friday, Aug. 10, at 3 p.m. in West Virginia University’s Downtown Campus Library, in Room 104. The program is free and the public is welcome.

Williams’ talk, titled “The Greenne$$ of the Red: How Macroeconomic Issues Changed West Virginia from Blue to Red,” will discuss why Mountain State voters supported the Republican candidate for president in each of the past five statewide elections, and why both houses of the state Legislature now have Republican majorities.

Williams then heads to the Tucker County town of Thomas to deliver the “straight scoop” on the pioneer West Virginia industrialist Henry Gassaway Davis on Saturday, Aug. 11, at 7 p.m. in the Cottrill Opera House on Front Street. This talk is also free and the public is invited.

Davis built a railroad, timber and coal empire in Tucker County, and the artifacts of that era are part of today’s cultural heritage in the region. In his talk, “Henry Gassaway Davis, Business Mogul,” Williams will discuss how people today can understand and relate to Davis’ accomplishments.

John Alexander Williams is a native of White Sulphur Springs in Greenbrier County, and has written about his home state for more than 50 years. His penetrating insights into the story of West Virginia are full of color, detail and nuance.

His books include West Virginia and the Captains of Industry; Appalachia, A History; and West Virginia, A History for Beginners. He was the script writer for the Public Broadcasting West Virginia Film history project.

Both talks are sponsored by the conservation group Friends of Blackwater, based in Tucker County, with assistance from the West Virginia Humanities Council. For more information contact Monte Maxwell, WVU Libraries communications coordinator, at 304-293-0306 or or Judy Rodd, Friends of Blackwater director, at 304-345-7663 or

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