The West Virginia Hillbilly, a weekly newspaper (spelled ‘‘weakly’’ on the front-page masthead) was started in Richwood in 1957 by Jim Comstock. In its heyday, the newspaper had a circulation of 20,000 to 30,000, in 40 states and six foreign countries. Comstock also published the Richwood News Leader, established after he returned from World War II and owned jointly with Bronson McClung.
Throughout Comstock’s years as editor, the Hillbilly remained widely popular with West Virginia residents and native West Virginians living elsewhere (‘‘chickened-out West Virginians,’’ as Comstock called them). A typical issue of the tabloid-size newspaper included feature articles, columns of interest to West Virginians, book notes, and never quite enough ads to make the publication truly profitable. The most read and usually best-written section was the ‘‘Comstock Load,’’ the editor’s own column on the back page.
The paper was famous for its occasional practical jokes, once including the release of a mountain lion to trick a neighboring editor as to whether the animal was extinct in West Virginia. Curmudgeonly humorous throughout, the West Virginia Hillbilly conveyed Comstock’s conservative politics in a good-natured way. The paper and its editor fed each other’s notoriety, making Jim Comstock for many years one of the most sought-after speakers in West Virginia.
Comstock tried to sell the Hillbilly as early as 1976 when he hired Pete Wallace as editor and set up a plan to sell stock that Wallace could buy back and eventually own the publication. When this proved unsuccessful, Comstock in 1981 sold the Hillbilly to South Charleston Publishing Company. He came out of retirement on February 25, 1986, on his 75th birthday to repurchase the paper. Upon his second retirement in 1992 Comstock sold the paper to Sandy McCauley. The new owners ceased to publish the West Virginia Hillbilly in late 2001.
This Article was written by Tom D. Miller
Last Revised on November 12, 2010
Anthony, Ted. Comstock Country. , 1/4/1993.
Comstock, Jay, son of Jim Comstock. Interview by author. 11/4/1998.
Cite This Article
Miller, Tom D. "West Virginia Hillbilly." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 12 November 2010. Web. 12 March 2014.