Credit unions are financial institutions that are formed by people with a common bond, such as a common employer. Credit unions began in Europe in the mid-1800s and spread to the United States in 1908. A Huntington accountant named William Bryan Hawkins brought credit unions to West Virginia. He read about them in a national magazine and organized a group called the Credit Union Bureau of West Virginia. After being elected to the House of Delegates in 1924, Hawkins introduced a bill that would allow the establishment of credit unions in the state. Newspapers editorialized in favor of the measure, and the legislation passed both houses with little opposition. The bill became law without the governor’s signature, however. So many bills passed that session that Governor Howard Gore dealt only with those he opposed.
West Virginia was the 22nd state in the country to enact credit union legislation. In the following months, three credit unions were formed by postal employees in Charleston, Huntington and Wheeling. Charles Stratton, an officer with the Charleston Postal Employees Credit Union, encouraged postal employees and other employee groups throughout the state to organize credit unions.
The West Virginia Credit Union League, based in Parkersburg, was formed in 1937 and provides support to the 109 credit unions in the state. These financial institutions have combined assets of $2.7 billion.
This Article was written by Becky Calwell
Last Revised on February 15, 2011