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West Virginia Centennial Celebration

Charleston Gazette
June 21, 1962


Truman Kicks Off Centennial Drive
Ex-President Explains A-Drop

By John G. Morgan
Staff Writer

The 33rd President of the United States was a central figure here Wednesday as the 35th state in the national marked its 99th birthday and kicked off a $1 million centennial fund drive . . . in the rain.

The rain, which had threatened all afternoon, came early in the ceremony, while the 99-voice choir from Calvary Baptist Church was singing the “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” It continued until near the end of the 45-minute celebration.

Harry S. Truman, his usual snappy self at 78 years of age, spoke to a statehouse lawn crowd estimated at about 3,500. He told his umbrella audience why he gave the order to drop an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, on Aug. 6, 1945.

He got his heaviest applause when he declared that the U. S. is “the greatest republic in the history of the world . . . the greatest nation ever got together.”

In view of the vast areas in the world that can be developed, Truman said there is no need to worry about over-population.

He said the history of West Virginia, Kentucky and his native state of Missouri have much in common in that they all had enough Andrew Jackson Democrats in them to keep from seceding.

The people of western Virginia didn’t want to secede from the nation, so they seceded from Virginia, he said.

There is a reason why every president attained the nation’s highest office, Truman said. Some of the presidents, he said, “couldn’t make decisions, some didn’t know where they were going, and some went too far.”

He invited the crowd to come to his hometown of Independence, Mo., to see the library collection on the historical backgrounds of former presidents.

Repeatedly, Truman told to crowd to “read your history” or “study your history.”

The colorful former President wore a raincoat and was bareheaded as he began speaking on the front statehouse steps, facing the Kanawha River.

Later, as the rain increased, Del. J. C. Cruikshank of Clay County, held an umbrella over Truman while he continued with his speech of about 10 minutes. The rain stopped before he did, however, and he made his concluding remarks without the raincoat or the umbrella.

U. S. Sen. Jennings Randolph introduced Truman as one who “advanced from farm boy to leader in battle in World War I, from merchant to judge, to U. S. senator from Missouri . . . to the highest office in the land.”

“Indeed,” Randolph said of Truman, “he has been associated with the writing of substantial chapters of American and world history. Perhaps this is why he possesses such an acute sense of history and why he evaluates historical events with accuracy and acumen.”

Randolph was one of numerous dignitaries attending the event. Others introduced included three former governors – Homer A. Holt, Okey L. Patteson and Cecil H. Underwood.

Also introduced were former U. S. Sen. Chapman Revercomb, Mayor Shanklin, Chairman Charles Hodel of the Centennial Commission, and Harmon S. Hamrick, a 99-year-old gentleman from Randolph County.

Hamrick, who was seated between Holt and Underwood, stood up with some help and persuasion, and took a bow.

Gov. Barron, a principal speaker along with Truman, won warm applause when he said West Virginia will succeed in its effort to raise funds for the centennial celebration next year.

“We set aside the state’s 99th birthday as a day of dedication to start the centennial fund-raising campaign on a statewide basis,” Barron said.

“Similar meetings will be held during the next several weeks in other cities throughout the state so that everyone may contribute to and work for the success of the centennial.

“West Virginia was born during the agony and turmoil of the Civil War. We have made great progress in our first century of statehood. The future appears to be bright. We have much to celebrate.

“Before we celebrate, though, we must dedicate ourselves to financing the centennial program. That we will do. You may count on it.”

H. Ward Christopher, general chairman of the West Virginia centennial fund drive, presided at Wednesday’s occasion.

In welcoming remarks, he said efforts will be made to dramatize and revive West Virginia history, and that the people will be given the facts about the state.

He said the state should move into the next century with a sense of history and destiny, and he asked for the help of all citizens in this “lifetime chance to work together.”

The official celebration stated at 5:30 p.m., with Dr. John F. Strong of the St. James Evangelical Lutheran Church in Wheeling saying the invocation:

“God of our fathers. Thou hast bequeathed to us this holy sovereign soil flowing with milk and honey in the rock, carved and carpeted with rocks and rills and woods and templed hills . . .”

The Charleston High School Band played musical selections, and planes of the West Virginia Air National Guard flew past as a salute to the state during the historic moments. Rev. Frank Rowley of Christ Episcopal Church in Bluefield delivered the benediction.

Truman arrived at Kanawha Airport at 1:44 p.m. He was met there by Barron, Randolph and other dignitaries. Mayor Shanklin presented the former President with a key to the city.

Shanklin told the president that the key cost 35 cents and the case 65 cents. But he said the value of the gift was not to be considered, and indicated that it was a token of high esteem for Truman.

Others who met Truman at the airport included Harrison O. Ash, the Fayette County industrialist with whom the former president is visiting today and later this week; Dr. and Mrs. Carl J. Roncaglone of Charleston; and Truman’s old friends, Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Solins of Welch.

Solins first met Truman in 1941 when the then senator from Missouri accepted an invitation to make an Armistice Day talk at Welch. Solins was chairman of the speakers bureau of the American Legion at that time.

Truman was taken from the airport to the Governor’s mansion in Barron’s official black Cadillac and had lunch with the Governor there.

In his address, Truman was very serious as he reviewed his reasons for authorizing the atomic bomb to be dropped on Hiroshima almost 17 years ago.

He said there were 1.6 million Americans moving through the Pacific theater of war at that time. He declared that he was advised by the best military authority that the U. S. would lose 250,000 men and that another 500,000 would be maimed if an attempt were made to land near Tokyo. Moreover, he said he was told that the Japanese would lose “just as many.”

Truman said he sent word to the Japanese that the bomb would be dropped if they didn’t surrender. After they refused, he said, there was nothing to do but to drop the bomb . . . to “save our youngsters and theirs.”

Those who still protest the dropping of the bomb, fail to mention the bombing of Pearl Harbor, where 5,000 men were “murdered,” he said.

Again he told the crowd to “study history,” to ignore the “sob sister stuff” and to “sob for our own” and “not for those who tried to murder us.”

In speaking of vast areas that may be developed, Truman referred to surveys made for the Point Four program during his administration.

He mentioned possibilities for development in the Mesopotamian Valley, between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in Asia Minor; and two million acres in Chile and Peru.

There were many very young and many very old people among the standing crowd on the lawn. A large number of heads disappeared under umbrellas when the rain began.

The threatening weather was suggestive of that on the morning of June 20, 1863, when the state was born. That day was cloudy, with threats of showers, but the sun broke through with a measure of assurance.

Precisely 30 years ago, when the new Statehouse was dedicated, a scorching sun beat down during most of the ceremonies. Then, a newspaper reported, the threat of a storm brought semi-darkness “like a curtain descending at the end of a play.”

Gov. William G. Conley, the principal speaker at the dedication ceremony in the statehouse courtyard, said:

“Behold in this capitol a monument to West Virginians of yesterday, today and tomorrow.”


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