Funeral of Waitman T. Willey

Morgantown Daily New Dominion
May 4, 1900


Last Rites are Performed Over Senator Willey.

All that is Mortal has been Consigned to the Tomb - Large Attendance out to Witness the Exercises - Dr. S. V. Leech Conducts the Service - Extracts from His Address

The funeral of the late Senator Waitman T. Willey took place this morning and all that was mortal of the Grand Old Man has been placed in its resting place in Oak Grove there to await the final summons.

An immense crowd of friends and relatives gathered to pay their last respects to the dead. The law class of the University went in a body. All exercises at the college and Public Schools were suspended and many of the students from each institution were in attendance.

Many of the business houses were closed and the streets seemed deserted while the funeral was in progress. The exercises took place at the home of the departed as he had often expressed a desire to have them do. There was no display as he had lived he was consigned to the tomb.

In accordance with the wish of Senator Willey's family the pall bearers consisted of members of the bar. The following were appointed at the bar meeting Thursday:

Active pall bearers: Frank Cox, Edgar B. Stewart, S. F. Glasscock, W. E. Glasscock, Clarence B. Dille, James C. Frazer, R. E. Fast and Edward G. Donley.

Honorary pall bearers: Judge R. L. Berkshire, Joseph Moreland, R. M. G. Brown, George C. Sturgiss, John J. Brown, Judge Okey Johnson of the Morgantown bar, and A. S. Hayden and John W. Mason, of the Fairmont bar.

The Methodist Episcopal choir sang "Jesus Lover of My Soul" and were followed by Dr. P. B. Reynolds of the University who read the scripture lesson. Dr. Leech followed with the funeral discourse which was in every way a magnificent tribute to the dead. It was as follows:

The text for this hour is contained in the second book of Samuel in the third chapter and the 28th verse. Know ye that there is a prince and a great man fallen this day in Israel?

When David's chief general, Joab, had treacherously assassinated Abner, the commanding general of his foes, David addressed to Joab the question of the text. The magnanimous monarch gave the fallen warrior a great funeral and pronounced an elegant eulogy over the bier of the dead officer .In our beloved country princes are never crowned with golden coronets, and men are not considered great because, like Abner, they have long faced soldiers on the field, led them against broken foes or gained triumph of blood on earth's acre.

Men are often prominent and great along other lines of greatness. West Virginia has produced few greater men than Waitman T. Willey. Like King Saul he was even physically great. He was more than six feet in height. Let us look at some of the elements of his greatness.

The evolution of his splendid career was great. He was not born in a palace, but 89 years ago he began his long life in a Marion county log cabin. His father and mother were among the pioneers of the western civilization. When but twelve years of age his parents moved to a farm on our little river. Until he was seventeen he had access to very few books. Then he walked 40 miles in a solitary day to secure educational advantages at Madison College at Uniontown, Pa. We find him soon afterwards pursuing legal studies in a prominent attorney's office at Wellsburg. Sixty-seven years ago he began the practice of law at the bar in this county and in after years his legal attainments brought to him a lucrative practice. Early in his legal life he began to excel in literature. He delivered many temperance lectures winning oratorical fame and coming into prominence by his orations before associations of learned men. He began to gather a large library and grew prominent in the early history of our state, and was elected a delegate to the state convention assembled to take action in regard to the secession of Virginia.

After discussing the elements in scholarship, public services and long religious life of Senator Willey, Dr. Leech narrated a number of the particulars of his death bed triumph, his rapture in view of his approaching death and his final victory. The address was copiously inlaid with historical illustration appropos to the occasion. Towards the conclusion he said "As I look out on this vast audience assembled to honor the most illustrious of our citizens, I remember the honors bestowed on the grand old men of Greece, until it became a proverb, "It is a good thing to be an old man in Sparta." No solitary man of West Virginia has been more honored in life and sincerely mourned in death than Waitman T. Willey. In the peroration of the discourse he said, "Our brother Willey is not dead. His life and influence will live on in this community. His pure and great soul has simply moved out of the crumbling physical tabernacle into God's eternal City." He concluded the funeral oration by reciting Horatius Bonar's famous hymn on "All Things Immortal."

Rev. A. M. Buchanan led in prayer and the choir sang "There is a fountain Filled with Blood." This together with the first hymn were favorites of the Senator and he had often said that he wanted them sung at his funeral. At the conclusion of the services the interment took place at Oak Grove cemetery.