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Emma Jane Taylor was born in Possum Hollow, Roane County, on November 11, 1922, to Ray and Beulah Lowe Taylor. A bright and creative child, she graduated as valedictorian of Spencer High School at age 16. Instead of attending college—her original plan—she remained in Roane County and married Herman Cox. When their four sons were old enough, she organized a 4-H club in St. Albans and ran two others in the area. Jane and her parents had been active in Roane County’s early 4-H program.

Word about her success with young people spread quickly, and the Kanawha County Parks and Recreation Commission hired her as its program director. She developed popular activities such as Mountaineer Day Camp, which introduced children to traditional Appalachian culture. In 1963, she was appointed as Kanawha County’s representative to the West Virginia Centennial Committee, which oversaw the first Mountain State Art & Craft Fair at the Cedar Lakes Conference Center. She and folklorist Pat Gainer identified traditional craftspeople and musicians across the state to showcase at what would become an annual fair.

Her invaluable contributions to the fair led to a job as crafts specialist for the state Department of Commerce in 1964. Jane, along with fellow staffers Carl Little and Don Page, sought to make West Virginia crafts more commercially marketable and to promote lesser-known Appalachian craftspeople. In that same year, she played an integral role in organizing the West Virginia exhibit at the New York World’s Fair.

She missed working with youth, though, and was frustrated by what she viewed as the glacial pace of state government. She worked briefly at the Huntington Job Corps before landing in Putnam County as a 4-H agent in 1967. She developed a traditional Scottish dance troupe, the Sine-Anna Dancers, that performed publicly more than 200 times in three years. She also reintroduced and expanded her Mountaineer Day idea, holding the first Mountain Heritage Weekend March 29-31, 1968, at Hawks Nest State Park. It was attended by some of West Virginia’s most-respected artists and musicians, including Frank George, a master of numerous traditional instruments, from the banjo to bagpipes.

By the late 1960s, Jane was divorced from Cox and, on December 6, 1969, married George. They were virtually inseparable the rest of their lives, leading youth in Appalachian heritage performances around the country and on tours of Europe.

In 1970, Jane George became a 4-H agent in Mercer County so Frank could live closer to his aging mother. She later moved on to similar 4-H positions in Monroe County (1978) and Roane County (1982). At each stop, she introduced her Scottish dance and other heritage programs. She retired in 1984 but remained actively involved in Appalachian heritage events, such as the Vandalia Gathering and Stonewall Jackson Jubilee, and in promoting Frank’s music career. For her many efforts to preserve Appalachian culture and her key role in the crafts movement, she was awarded the 1993 Vandalia Award, West Virginia’s highest folklife honor.

Jane George died at age 95 on February 19, 2018, three months after Frank’s death.

Last Revised on December 19, 2022


Sources

Bumgardner, Stan. Jane George: A Lifetime of Inspiration. Goldenseal, 44, 2, Summer 2018.

Williams, Danny. Jane George: Proud To Be a West Virginian. Goldenseal, 19, 4, Winter 1993.

Cite This Article

e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia "Jane George." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 19 December 2022. Web. 28 January 2023.

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