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SharePrint Media File

Type: Video

Series Title West Virginia: A Film History

Filmmaker Mark Samels

Company West Virginia Humanities Council

Format DVD


In 1953, newly elected governor William Marland made a stunning proposal. A stiff new tax on coal. A former miner, Marland said that outside interests had exploited the state for fifty years, leaving behind a scarred landscape yet few tax dollars. We are paying a fearful price to allow coal to be extracted from the hills of West Virginia, he declared. It is only right that we should be able to point with pride to better roads and schools as a result of this awful toll.

Coal operators lobbied fiercely against the tax saying it would cripple the state’s leading industry. The state legislature rejected it soundly. Marland’s proposals for other taxes were defeated as well.

Marland was successful in desegregating West Virginia’s public schools beginning in 1954, despite the objections of several southern counties.

William Marland: We took the position that the Supreme Court’s ruling was the law of the land and that as such we should obey it in both spirit and word. To this end we have worked and I am glad to say that those who have studied the segregation and integration program of the public schools of the nation have been loud in their praise of West Virginia’s efforts in this field.

Narrator: Frustrated and weakened by alcoholism, William Marland joined the exodus from West Virginia in 1959. Reporters later found him in Chicago driving a taxi.

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