Young McGhee grew up on the Franklin County farm and laid the foundation of his education in the local rural schools. Years later he pursued his studies further at Bluefield Institute, but he is in the main a self-made man.
On December 28, 1888, Mr. McGhee was happily married to Miss Laura C. DeHaven. She was educated at the Petersburg Normal and was an accomplished teacher. Her parents were John P. and Elizabeth DeHaven. Mr. and Mrs. McGhee have had nine children. The names of those living are Oscar P., Lucy D., and Mary L. McGhee.
Mr. McGhee's education was limited by the fact that he lost his father at an early age, so the boy had the responsibility of a large family at an age when he should have been in the school room. He was converted in his early twenties and joined the First Baptist Church of Charleston. He was licensed to preach by the Scott Street Baptist Church of Bluefield, which he served as pastor for about five years. While there a new house of worship was erected and that having been destroyed by fire, another was built on the same site. He also served the First Baptist Church at Princeton and built a new house there. His last pastorate was the First Baptist Church at Ingleside. While he still preaches, he is not now in the regular pastorate.
Mr. McGhee has rendered conspicuous service in connection with two West Virginia institutions, the Bluefield Institute and the West Virginia Colored Orphan's Home and Industrial Institute. He began in 1893 at Bluefield his efforts to secure better high school and college facilities for the colored youth of that section. He was assisted by others and in 1897 the State took over the school which had been established. An appropriation of $12,000 for the first two years, continued to grow as the work of the school became known till 1921 when an appropriation of $127,000 was made for two years.
The "Colored Orphanage" was incorporated January 31, 1899, at Bluefield. In March 1900, a suitable location was found near Huntington and 18 orphans gathered under the direction of a faculty of three. In 1902 a music teacher was added. Later a boarding department was added and in 1903 the state appropriated $1,500 to increase the pay of the teachers. A special session of the legislature added $2,000 as a maintenance fund. The growth of the institution made necessary a larger plant. Through the generosity of Mr. G. W. Flooding and friends of the institution, a beautiful site and building with 36 rooms were secured at Blue Sulphur Springs. Certain antagonisms made another move necessary. So a farm of 210 acres on the Pea Ridge road was secured and here in the face of many difficulties the work became firmly established. Mr. McGhee was the Superintendent from 1900 to 1915, and did more than any other man to popularize the work and make it a success. The whole story cannot be told here, but it has become the fixed policy of the state to support the work liberally, and in 1921, the legislature appropriated $42,000 for two years.
In politics Mr. McGhee is a Republican and among the secret orders holds membership in the Masons, Pythians and Mosaic Templars. He is a man of good business judgment and ability. He is now (1922) proprietor of a modern 32 room hotel, the Mt. Vernon, at Huntington and is regarded as one of the most substantial citizens of his race in that part of the State.
History of the American Negro Index
West Virginia History Center