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Roy Lee Harmon


Poet Roy Lee Harmon (October 7, 1900-April 7, 1981) was the founder of the West Virginia Poetry Society and served as the state’s poet laureate under four governors for 38 years. He was born in Boone County, grew up in Danville, and graduated from Scott District High School. He attended Morris Harvey College (now University of Charleston but then located in Barboursville) before working as a reporter and eventually retiring as city editor for the Raleigh Register, a Beckley newspaper. Harmon also worked as sports editor for both the Huntington Advertiser and the Beckley Post-Herald and was remembered at his death as an avid fisherman.

On March 10, 1937, Governor Homer Holt named Harmon the poet laureate of West Virginia. James Lowell McPherson succeeded him in 1943, but Governor Clarence Meadows reappointed Harmon in 1946. He held the post until 1960, when Cabell County’s Vera Andrew Harvey, who served only one year, replaced him. Governor W. W. Barron again named Harmon poet laureate in 1961. In 1979, Governor Jay Rockefeller gave him emeritus status.

Harmon’s books are Hillbilly Ballads (1938), which originated as a newspaper column of the same name, and Around the Mountains (1941), Up the Creek (1948), Unto the Hills (1957), Rhymes of a Mountaineer (1968), and Roses in December (1978). He was elected to the House of Delegates in 1946 and served four intermittent terms. In addition to his writing and political career, Harmon was a television host in Oak Hill during the 1950s.

Written by James Slack