Baptist preacher and amateur historian Clarence Shirley Donnelly (February 2, 1895-August 31, 1982) was born in Rock Castle, Jackson County. He wrote a daily column for the Beckley Post-Herald for 27 years and authored more than 20 religious and historical publications.
Donnelly moved with his family from Rock Castle to Charleston when he was 14. He graduated from Charleston High School, where he edited the school’s publication, The Book Strap. After graduation from Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, Virginia, he was ordained as a Baptist minister.
Donnelly began his ministry in 1919 at Main Street Baptist Church in Petersburg. In 1922, he accepted the pastorate at Oak Hill Baptist Church, where he stayed for 21 years. During World War II, he served in the U.S. Army as a chaplain. He was awarded several honors, including the Bronze Star, the Legion of Merit Award, and the American Defense Medal. After active duty, he was a chaplain for the West Virginia National Guard and the Veterans Administration Hospital in Beckley.
From 1946 to 1971, Donnelly was pastor of Crab Orchard Baptist Church near Beckley. As a minister he officiated in 2,349 civilian funerals and performed 1,355 weddings.
Donnelly’s interest in history was evident in his newspaper columns, which highlighted local lore. The Beckley Post Herald collected his columns in three volumes, Yesterday and Today: A Keepsake, A Keepsake II, and A Keepsake III. He also established the Fayette County Historical Society, and served as president of the Fayette, Oak Hill, and West Virginia historical societies.
Last Revised on October 17, 2012
Fayette County Chamber of Commerce. History of Fayette County. Marceline, MO: Heritage House, 1993.
Shawkey, Morris. West Virginia: In History, Life, Literature and Industry 5 vols. Chicago: Lewis Pub., 1928.
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e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia "Shirley Donnelly." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 17 October 2012. Web. 27 March 2017.