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Physician and civic leader Charles Henry Laws (June 23, 1883-March 7, 1962) was born in Phoebus, Virginia. After graduating from Leonard Medical College in North Carolina in 1911, Laws began medical practice in Elkins. With the outbreak of World War I he volunteered for military service and was commissioned 1st lieutenant, becoming the first African-American physician in the U.S. Army Medical Corps, the 372nd Infantry. He served a year overseas in a combat zone, nine months within the sound and range of German guns.

After the war Laws returned to his medical practice in Elkins, and in 1922 he relocated to Hinton to replace a local doctor who had died. This was an era of virulent, organized racism in southern West Virginia and across the country, with the Ku Klux Klan marching through Hinton in 1924. Nonetheless, when a new city council was seated in 1927, following the merger of Hinton with nearby Avis and Bellepoint, Laws was among those elected to office. He was the first African-American to give public service to the newly incorporated Hinton, serving on its first city council, and was reelected for four consecutive terms.

Charles Henry Laws died at Beckley Memorial Hospital and was buried at Hinton.

This Article was written by Fred Long

Last Revised on December 07, 2015

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Long, Fred "Charles Henry Laws." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 07 December 2015. Web. 14 June 2024.


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