Judge P. H. Napier, probably the most widely known man in this county, died at his home in Wayne at five o'clock last Thursday morning, following an attack of grippe and influenza which confined him to his room little more than a week. But Judge Napier had been in declining health for sometime although this fact was little understood among his acquaintances since he was not the kind of man who would complain when in ill health. The end was possibly hastened by injuries he received last fall when [a] N. & W. passenger train. . . wrecked. He was badly shaken up and was [compelled] to walk with a cane [after the] accident.
Judge Napier was born in this county December 12, 1849, being 73 years old at the time of his death. He was the grandson of Thomas Napier, one of the . . . most prominent settlers in what is now Wayne county who came here when it was a primeval forest little known to the white man. The closest neighbors of Thomas Napier were miles away. The dense woodland was infested with wild animals which were routed long ago by the advance of civilization.Thomas Napier was a soldier in the war of 1812, and following his discharge from service he studied in Virginia and later moved to Wayne county where he taught school for the greater part of his life. Patrick H. Napier, Sr., was the son of Thomas Napier and father of Patrick H. Napier, Jr.
Born of pioneers, Judge Napier naturally inheried many of the strong traits of character common to our forefathers. When he was a boy, the school system in Wayne county was meager in comparison to the present opportunities offered; hence, he was deprived of educational advantages other than those he made for himself. Early in life he aspired to study law, and he did study law in his own home around a flickering light.
But he overcame those handicaps, and when he died, Judge Napier was everywhere regarded as one of the most eminent trial lawyers in West Virginia. When young in years, he was a timberman in this county; he was later. . .in mercantile business; he was elected county clerk and prosecuting attorney. He was for many years a prominent figure in State politics and his influence was instrumental in [determining] the fate of many office aspirants. He was a Republican, but his views were not of the narrow partisan kind that prevented him from respecting the views of others.
Judge Napier was successful as a practicing attorney; he had native oratorical ability which prominently identified him with many speaking campaigns in the State. He was a friend to the poor man, and it is a well known fact that he never turned a client away for the mere fact that he was penniless.
Judge Napier was everywhere known as "Uncle Pat." His term as judge of the Wayne-Logan circuit, under appointment from Governor Hatfield to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Judge J. B. Wilkinson, was a responsible office which he well filled. He was the same unaffected gentleman, regardless of whether he was practicing in justice's court or before the State supreme court or sitting on the bench in his own court.
Funeral services were conducted at the home in Wayne Friday by Rev. A. W. Davison and Rev. W. H. Beale, pastors of the local Baptist and Methodist churches respectively. The services were largely attended by people from the county and from Huntington. Burial was made on Little Lynn creek, near East Lynn, alongside the grave of his brother, W. S. Napier, who preceded him by less than a year. Through the courtesy of C. Weller, superindendent of this division of the N. & W., the East Lynn train was delayed for two hours, thus enabling people to attend the burial services and return to Wayne the same afternoon. The last rites were the charge of the Wayne Masonic Lodge, of which the deceased had long been a member.
Surviving relatives are his wife, Mr. Delilah Napier; two children, Mrs. J. R. Keesee, of Huntington, and W. J. Napier, of Wayne; and one sister, Mrs. Chapman Fry, of Ceredo.
The death of Judge P. H. Napier in his Wayne county home might well be compared to the removal of a sturdy and loyal familiar land mark. For almost fifty years he had been one of the outstanding figures in the affairs of Wayne county. Somehow or other he was the kind of man whose death one did not expect to hear about. Despite his more than seventy years, he was erect and vigorous and possessed of a vitality that seemed invincible.
If one of his numerous distinguishing traits stood out above all the others it was his unfailing courtesy. Kindness, genuine, helpful kindness, was another part of his character which deserves special mention.
And "Uncle Pat," as thousands affectionately called him, knew far more about neighborliness than the average man knows. He was a neighbor in the truest sense. With money or with personal service, he was ever ready to go the limit of his opportunity for helping others. Whan a fellow human being was in distress, "Uncle Pat" was not like the Priest and the Levite who passed by on the other side. Instead, he was the Good Samaritan, who poured out the oil of healing and bound up wounds.
And "Uncle Pat" knew far more about hospitality than the average man knows. His home was the home of his friends. There they found cordial welcome and unstinted entertainment. His home was the home of plenty sweetened by unaffected simplicity.
"Uncle Pat" knew better how to understand and sympathize with boys than the average man knows. Many a youth found him a sympathetic listener and invaluable counsellor (sic). Boys trusted him for the same reason that men trusted him. Trustworthiness was written upon his countenance and vibrated in the tones of his voice. . . .
The measure of "Uncle Pat's" faith in men was large. He believed men were trustworthy and accepted all as such until shown to the contrary. It was inevitable that he should at times find his confidence betrayed. But these few exceptions to the rule of his belief did not embitter him.
Without a doubt at the day of his death he had personal acquaintance with more men and women than any other citizen in Wayne county. Fifty years as county official, business man and attorney brought him into contact with thousands, and thousands were proud to refer to him as their friend.
Sprung from sturdy pioneer stock, he lived true to the teachings of his forbears and emulated their high examples of good citizenship and right living. If he had an enemy and knew it, he would have exhausted all reasonable efforts to win him back as a friend.
Despite the fact of limited opportunities in early life, "Uncle Pat" was a successful lawyer. What he lacked in the technicalities of the law he made up for in the fine common sense that was his and the native shrewdness that was a part of his mind. In whatever he undertook, in whatever duties were thrust upon him, he filled his place and filled it well.
To say that Judge Napier will be greatly missed and that Wayne county has suffered a very severe loss in his death would be superfluous. Both things are but all too true. If the consensus of his friends could be moulded (sic) into a brief epitaph, it would be something like this: He was just. He was sympathetic. He understood.
Transcription by June White
Wayne County News