Historian Otis Kermit Rice (June 6, 1919-September 22, 2003) was born in Hugheston, Kanawha County. He earned undergraduate degrees at Morris Harvey College (now University of Charleston), an M.A. in education (West Virginia University, 1945), and a Ph.D. in history (University of Kentucky, 1960). After being a teacher and principal in Kanawha County schools, Rice taught at West Virginia Institute of Technology (1957–87), where he was chairman of the history department and dean of the School of Human Studies. He also taught at Marshall University, Morris Harvey College, and the West Virginia Graduate College (now Marshall University Graduate College).
One of West Virginia’s most published historians, Rice was the author of The Allegheny Frontier, which received an Award of Merit from the American Association for State and Local History; Hatfields and McCoys; Frontier Kentucky; Charleston and the Kanawha Valley; History of Greenbrier County; Sheltering Arms Hospital; and West Virginia: The State and Its People. He co-authored with Stephen W. Brown, West Virginia: A History, a college text; The Mountain State, a middle school text; as well as A Centennial of Strength: A History of Banking in West Virginia.
Rice served as president of the West Virginia Historical Society (1955–56) and the West Virginia Historical Association (1967–68); book review editor of West Virginia History (1976–79); member of the editorial board of Filson Club Quarterly (1985–87) and the board of advisers of the WVU Library (1988–95); vice chairman of the Kanawha County Bicentennial Commission (1986–90); and first vice president, West Virginia Historical Education Foundation (1992–2003). Among other awards, he received the first Virgil A. Lewis Award of the West Virginia Historical Society (1991) and the first Governor’s Award for Outstanding Contributions to West Virginia History or Literature (1999). He received an honorary doctorate from West Virginia University in 2000. On July 22, 2003, Rice was named West Virginia’s first Historian Laureate.
Otis Rice died in Charleston. He stands among the foremost historians of West Virginia and attained his broadest influence as a writer of secondary and college textbooks.
This Article was written by Stephen W. Brown
Last Revised on October 22, 2010