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Transcript of interview with Richard Grimes, May 4, 1993, for the film "West Virginia"

Source: WV History Film Project


Q: Richard, tell me, let's go chronologically, for awhile. Tell me how you encountered an image, or a stereotype, of West Virginians when you went into the service.
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RG: Well, I, a lot of people who would start telling me that they had this image of the coal miner, you know they'd see with the coal-covered face and the hat, and everything like this, and then they'd hear these stories about the mean strikes and everything, and they were afraid to come here, you know. And, of course, I just kind of laughed at that, I said "well, you know, that's no big thing." And, they thought that, actually, that people stayed like that. Like everybody here was a miner and I said "no, they shower at the end of the day." I mean, you know, but it amazed me that the feeling, they were very hesitant to come here.

Q: Let's do that again and, if you wouldn't mind, starting with "when I was in the service I ran into some people, fellow soldiers."
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RG: OK. All right. When I was in the service, I ran into guys from other states who, they asked you where you're from and their image was that this was a dangerous place to live. And, I said "why?" and they said "well, you know, you've got those mean coal miners and, you know, they would see these images of the coal-covered faces and the hats and then they would read these stories about the pretty mean strikes that we had. And I said "oh, no." I said "these guys shower at the end of the day, you know what I mean. And that they are pretty nice people and everything like this, but it surprised me the image that existed.

Q: After you got out of the service and came back, tell me what your personal experience was in the 1950's. The 1950's was a time when coal really collapsed in West Virginia and people started moving away.
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RG: Well, yea, they started, machines of course started to take over for a lot of the miners and everything like this. And, of course West Virginia lost some other big businesses, too. The glass industry, which was big in the central part of the state, started to give way to the plastics business, and the steel business, in the northern part of the state. And, of course, you could find this in adjacent states began to loose out, also. And, so West Virginia kind of took it on the nose from about three different ways, and it was, people, the younger people started leaving the state to where they could get a job.

Q: Tell me, it's 1960 and a young, Catholic senator is running for President and West Virginia emerges as a critical ??. Tell me, if you can, sir, the essence of the story of Kennedy and West Virginia.
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RG: Well, West Virginia kind of became the representative state of the Bible Belt. And, back at the time, of course, Kennedy being a Catholic running for President wanted to prove to the party that he could win as President, cause there were a lot of people going into the Democratic Convention said "no." At that time, a Catholic can't be elected and I think the thing was that the Pope was going to be running the country if that happened, see. But, he used West Virginia as an example of a Bible Belt state where he could win. And, he came into the state and, actually, made some promises that they got to really like the state. A lot of people got to know him and everything and it turned into a kind of fun experience for both Kennedy and, I know a lot of the reporters and everything that were covering it. And, of course West Virginia went big for John Kennedy and that was a big selling point that he had when he got to the Democratic Convention.

Q: A lot of money flowed?
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RG: Oh, yes, yes. And, of course, Kennedy's father was fairly wealthy and that was one of the first elections where "big money" really took over. It wasn't that they were buying anything illegal, they were just over-doing it. That was probably one of the first races where "PR" became a major factor in the country's politics, and, of course, they had the money to spend. They were very liberal in how they wanted to do anything, and people were --

Q: OK. Let's stop for a second.


Q: OK. Tell me how Kennedy's people, Kennedy's money tapped into a way of doing politics in West Virginia.
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RG: Well, West Virginia had a system, already, a local political system where you bought into the system there, you know, and you bought your way onto the ticket and you'd make certain contributions. We didn't have laws that were so strict on what a person could contribute to something like this, and if you paid enough and you got on the machine, they supported you. They ran your campaign for you, and, usually, the list of eight or ten people went out as to who was going to be elected. Well, Kennedy came here and he, probably, would have had a more difficult time, but, his father had a lot of money. They were a wealthy family. They bought into the machines around here and they cranked-up and Kennedy started seeing the results in all the different areas of the state. He got to know all the political bosses and everything and they became great fans of his and they helped him get elected here. And, --

Q: Do you recall a turning point in that primary in West Virginia?
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RG: Well, all right, of course he was running against Hubert Humphrey. Who, now this is very interesting in West Virginia. This is a very "labor-oriented" state. Hubert Humphrey was very very "labor-oriented" and, this was almost like a betrayal. How could a Kennedy come in and beat a strong labor candidate. In fact, there were, I remember some fistfights, that took place at various places around the state. And, even if the Democratic National Convention by faithful labor people who were supporting Humphrey and, yet, Kennedy got the vote because he bought the machine vote. And, that's what delivered in West Virginia.

Q: Now, that labor vote was, in a large part, created and maintained by John L. Lewis.
RG: Right, and

Q: How big of a figure was John L. Lewis in West Virginia?
RG: Well, of course, the funny thing is that, of course, this is a Democratic state. He's, you know, he had tradition, but he was a Republican, and a lot, a lot of --

Q: Could you start that sentence over by saying "John L. Lewis was?"
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RG: John L. Lewis was a Republican. And, a lot of very loyal Democrats in the state who swear that that's the only way that they would vote, were not aware of that. It was brought out in a, a couple of years ago, in a race down in the Huntington area, a Congressional race, where a woman who was running reminded them that he was a Republican. But, he still has, I mean his name is still in, kind of in glory in the state and everything like this. This is a very "labor-oriented" state.

Q: Why do you think so? Because he was, really, the one that brought mechanization to the mines that brought massive layoffs of some miners. Why has he been able to maintain, sort of --
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RG: Well, I think he was a strong, he was a very good at unifying the locals, and that, you know, if you go back through the history there, some of the locals, and some of the other unions, like say the AFL-CIO, were very much at odds with each other because they had positions and they were jealous of each other. And, now, of course, they tend to bond together because management is fairly strong, too. But, there was a time when they were in a lot of competition with each other. And, Lewis was the one who knew how to bring the miners together and made them a fairly strong union.

Q: Has big labor been good, over the long-haul, for West Virginia?
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RG: Well, I think, I think labor had done a lot of good things for the unions. I think that the image that goes out about them is, sometimes, not so good. You know, companies will kind of run as if they are afraid of unions. And, so West Virginia may be bidding for a large company or something like this, and, they'll hear about "uh-oh, that's a tough union." We've had tough union strikes and we won't even get our name on the table. You know, maybe, they have limited from twenty states down to five, or something like this, and, sometimes, I think it is a misplaced fear. But, it does exist out there. I remember when the Saturn Plant was going to be built down in Tennessee and I ask some of the General Motors people why we didn't get in the finals, and the said "well, we were worried about that labor situation over there."

Q: Let's go back to the '60's.

Q: Kennedy gets in and starts the war on poverty ?? and continues it as part of this great society.
RG: Right.

Q: What was the war on poverty in West Virginia at this time?
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RG: Well, I think that West Virginia has some poor counties and that we did, when the mechanization took over in the mines and everything, we were hit with a lot of unemployment. And, at first a lot of miners refused to be re-trained into other jobs. They were certain that it was going to come back. It didn't, really, come back. And, at that time they just didn't, they didn't want to give up their profession. So, we had high unemployment and, of course, a lot of younger people started leaving, they couldn't get jobs, or something like this. And, then poverty moved, of course it existed in other places in the country, but, like in West Virginia and certain areas, it was really big. And so, workers start a lot, this became kind of a camp, if you will, to come and do your public service. Kennedy kind of set that tone, you know, you know, do for your country. And, so a lot of people started looking, we had a very active poverty program from other people coming in.

Q: One of the aspects of the poverty program is that pictures start going out to the rest of the nation about West Virginia, its shacks and barefoot kids. Tell me about that picture and the impact that it had.
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RG: Well, of course, that wasn't true for most of the state. I'm sure that in, you know, I've been to New York state and outside of New York I've seen some worse slums, you know, out in the rural areas than I ever saw here. But, we, this image got very strong about this was what West Virginia was. And, we would have people, we would have reporters from all over the country, coming in here during the poverty war. It was a fascination, like this is where to go to do a story. They would --

Q: Excuse me. We ran out of film. We'll start that answer over again, and if you could say --


Q: OK. Richard, listen. Tell me about the image that got shaped and associated with West Virginia.
RG: OK. The one was that --

Q: Hold it one second. OK. Ready. OK. Sorry.
RG: One of the things was that like people ran around in their bare feet.

Q: Tell me. Give me a complete sentence. An image in the '60's, start to say it --
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RG: All right. An image started to get shaped in the '60's that West Virginians, like ran around in bare feet, that their family structure was kind of non-existent, that they settled all their problems with either guns or clubs or something like this. And, that, in a lot of instances, they were starving. And, this wasn't so, of course, particularly through most of the state. There were some people that, maybe, were on hard times.

Q: Was it a car? It was something, yes. It went by. I'm sorry. Could you start one more time?
RG: The whole thing?

Q: Sorry.
RG: OK. The image was that.

Q: The image started to get formed.
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RG: The image started to get formed in the 1960's that West Virginians ran around in their bare feet, that they had no family structure of any type, that they settled most of their problems in violent ways, and that it was kind of a mean place to come to. They didn't have any food. Well, of course, this wasn't the case. Most of the state, people lived just like they did everywhere else and, in the areas where there was high unemployment, just like there was anywhere else. The people, probably, lived a little rougher lifestyle. But, this attracted young people from all over the country who started coming here to do their public service. That is, this was something that grew out of the Kennedy Administration and was picked up by Johnson, President Johnson. And, so we had a lot of people coming here, looking for ways to help. The state appreciated it, I mean, and they tried to cooperate, but I think that a lot of people found a different situation than what they thought really existed.

Q: Tell me about the VISTAs and the tallest VISTA?
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RG: Well, of course, the VISTA Program brought in people who would look for neighborhoods that needed guidance. And, of course, one of them was our famous Jay Rockefeller who came here from New York. And, of course, the funny thing was he was here for a number of months and nobody knew he was here. He didn't, apparently, made a big thing about it. Rockefeller had known a journalist in Washington and he said you ought to go to West Virginia. There's some areas, and so he found this little neighborhood, out in a rural area outside of Charleston, and, I've gone back to it several times, and the people still remember him. What they remember him for was that he was tall and he had this great appetite. And, he could just eat and eat and eat, you know, and, sometimes, he would visit two or three people's homes every evening out there to eat.
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So, that was kind of a running joke. But, he did help and he came up with some ideas. And, we, eventually, discovered that he was here. And, so we started doing some stories and, immediately, everybody starts saying "he's going to run for governor." And then, of course, he would start out saying "no, he's not running for governor," and everything. But, then he ran for the Legislature and he got elected and there he was a fascination. It's like every time he sneezed, he was covered. And, then he became Secretary of State and this started to build up and then, of course, eventually he became governor. He got beat, once, running for governor, but, he, then he was a college president, also here. So, he, at West Virginia Wesleyan.

Q: Let me interrupt you. I wanted two little anecdotes about his days as a Vista. One anecdote about a Vista worker. Tell me about the image that some people saw of a tall Rockefeller in a pinstripe suit coming in.
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RG: Well, that's right. They didn't, they were very suspicious. And, in fact, his people would say "quit wearing those fancy suits when you walk up the hollows" because they see you as somebody else, not as ?? And, of course, the other thing was that his grandfather, you know, was in the, back in the early days, was considered by a lot of people as being one of those mean mine operators or something like this, although he was in the oil business more. But, he had this image of, you know, the suspicious image, and they couldn't imagine that a relative could come in here and be kind. On the other hand, they were very much fascinated by his wealth. And, a lot of people had the idea, well, just what can he bring us here? What can he get us? Can he bring this in? Can he bring that in? And, he was actually, believe it or not, was a little bit tight with his money.
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I mean, you know, he didn't throw it around like this. But, there were a lot of people that thought that, you know, if he could give us a million for this and a million for that. And, so he had a hard time, at first, trying to explain to them "no, I want to be a public servant, I want to be a leader, but it's not all my money that I'm going to bring in."

Q: What do you think brought one of the richest men in the world to one of the poorest states in America?
RG: Well, he had looked, been looking. He was caught up, he was a big fan of John Kennedy's. He was one of these young, young boys who was caught up in the movement and everything, that. And, he was looking at a --

Q: Could you start that again and start it with instead of "he" Rockefeller?
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RG: OK. Rockefeller was one of these young boys who got caught up in the Kennedy movement, and he looked at a number of states and was thinking about going to California, New Mexico and some places like this, but he, and West Virginia was one of them. But, he knew, had a friend in the Peace Corps who told him that he would, could, really do a good job in West Virginia and it was handy and everything like this, and he came over here and looked around and kind of liked it. Actually, the people here tend to be very friendly in a lot of the neighborhoods. Contrary to the "mean image" that some might think they have. And, they really took him in and he was very fascinated and really got caught up. And, the funny thing was when he got married, some years later, invited all those people from over in the, this little town where he was and a lot of them went. That was the first big thing they had ever gone to.

Q: Do you think this whole, the Vista, the war on poverty, do you think it did anything for West Virginia?
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RG: Oh, sure. I think that there were, there were programs, you know, aside from just like bringing money in or something like this. There were a lot of community efforts that were started like, well, in Rockefeller's case, you know, they built a little miniature recreation center over there and they got some kids interested in basketball leagues and stuff like this. So, these programs, actually, did this and the neighborhoods were depressed when the program started because there was no work. So, they did help. They brought spirit, some spirit back to the community again.

Q: Did they do anything to West Virginia? Did it have a downside?
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RG: Other than the bad publicity that went out that this was where the poor workers came to. We had reporters coming in here from all over the country. And, it was funny, they would come to the newspaper and say "where can we see a coal mine?" and we would tell them they drove by four of them or something like this, you know. But, they would want to see poor people. And, like they didn't exist somewhere else, you know. So, this, we were always kind of fighting this, and I must confess, that we used to send them, the newspaper, all down to the same bar, down in Eastbank and the same four miners would always be there to be interviewed, all the time. You know, we used to laugh about it because we'd just say here and the guy appreciated the business, you know, cause he'd always let us know. But, yea, it got, that got annoying to people in West Virginia. They started getting a little sensitive because the same poverty, the same steel mill that closed down in Wheeling, closed down outside of Pittsburgh, too. You could find the same thing.

Q: OK. Going back a little bit. Chip we just got to live with those. Going back a little bit to a, tell me about William Marland and his effort to sort of change the game.
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RG: OK. Marland, of course, was very, came into the governorship at the, in the early '30's. And, he was one of the youngest governors, now he is the second youngest. At the time, he was the youngest. And, he was very intelligent. And, he had some interesting ideas. And, one of the things, of course, in West Virginia the big coal barons had run the state for years and were making all the money and most of the taxes were going on the poor people. Well, he came in and, right off, called for the Severance Tax on coal and just about blew their mind. I mean these guys was a "what in the." It's like they felt that they owned the Legislature. You know, I mean they would pay for all this and pay for all that and how dare could this guy come in and do that. But, and, of course, the Democratic Machine, this is basically a two to one Democratic state.
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So, the Democratic Machine just kind of looked, this is your time as governor, you do what you're supposed to do and then we'll have another Democrat come in. It just blew their mind. They couldn't believe that this guy was, it's like striking Mom and Dad, or something like this, you know, and he came down. The only problem was, he had a personal drinking problem which he later admitted. And, it was one of those things that, at the time, a lot of people didn't know about and he would like take two steps forward and one back, because he'd like disappear from the scene or something like this. But, things, of course, were very loose and easy then and I can remember one time, right before an election, that somebody called the newspaper and said "hey, he's loading, his car's over at the Liquor Warehouse and they're filling it up full of booze in the back," you know.
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And, so we sent a photographer over and, sure enough, we got the picture and so, we called him up. We said "what are you doing filling your car up with liquor?' And, he said "come on, tomorrow's the election." I mean, you know, it was like it was the thing to do. Nobody, if for a vote you got a little bit of booze or something like this, you know. And, I got the feeling that he really didn't sense he was doing anything wrong. I mean we look at that now, and say "what, there's this law," but, he said it was the day before the election. So, I always kind of, that was the lifestyle of machine politics. Like, you know, you get on the machine, but repayment, there was a little bit of repayment. It wasn't anything big money, but it was a bottle of booze or something like this, you expected something in return and that's the way politics was run at that time in the state.

Q: Describe to me how the professional and the personal collapsed, just intersected with Marland. How his programs are defeated and how personally, he. Describe the sort of tragedy.
RG: Well, of course, the --

Q: Battery?


Q: ?? was Marland?
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RG: Marland did not get most of the things that he asked for. People were shocked that he would dare ask for some of those things, but he had good ideas with what to do with money, but, they were so jolted. Well, OK, the fact that he had a drinking problem, it would begin to worsen when he wouldn't get this. He started to feel like a failure when, in fact, probably, he wasn't. And, I, you know, somebody who has a problem like this, this is what they tend to rely on or something and this is what happened in his case. But, he would still come up with good ideas and, you know, people would sit around and say "but, that's really a novel idea" and everything like this, but the coal, he never did come to peace with the coal operators in the state who never forgave him for doing that. Then, of course, since then, it has been done, you know. But, he, he's the one who kind of opened that up and it got worse and his drinking problem tended to get worse.

Q: What became of him?
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RG: Well, he ended up going out to, first he was going to do a local business, then he ended up getting away and he went out to Chicago and nobody heard of him for a long time. And, then, all of the sudden, he turned up one day as a cab driver out in Chicago and, he needed, he was trying to rehabilitate himself and everything and he needed steady work, and everything like this. So, he was trying to work his way back. And, of course, this went all over the country, you know, the day that story broke. And, a reporter had remembered something about him, that's how it came out, but the sad thing was that he had cancer. It had already been diagnosed and died an short time later and asked that his ashes be flown over the state and sprinkled. And, so they did. But, it kind of came to an end there real fast.

Q: Tell me about another governor's administration. One that was famous for some other things. Wally Barron.
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RG: Right. Well, now, Barron was a governor, actually he was a fairly effective governor when he was in office. The only problem was that corruption took over. I mean he used to have a jar on his desk and people would go into see him and he wouldn't tell you to put money in it, but somebody else would say "if you go in, you know, you might drop a twenty in there, a ten or something like this" you know. And, this was kind of, you know, how you were expected to do things. There was a lot of corruption in the Administration in terms of, like, I think the Highway Department, it was, the money was being used for the wrong things. We had purchasing, big purchasing scandal in which certain, only certain people, were getting state business in return for payoffs and everything like this. And, it got to be real bad there. It was just like every time you turned around, there was like eight or ten different state leaders that were either charged or gave testimony in return for no conviction, or something, but we had a number of people go to jail out of that Administration.

Q: What happened to him?
RG: Well, he served time.

Q: Please, call him Barron.
RG: They tried

Q: They tried to save.
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RG: Wally Barron went on trial with a lot of other department heads. They all got convicted and he didn't. But, then the next day we came to find out that he had tried to bribe one of the jurors and so, he was brought back, tried for that and sent to prison. He served his time in Federal Prison and the last time I talked to him, it has been several years ago, he was living down in Florida at a golf, one of these golf complexes, he loved to play golf.

Q: Let me stop you there. We have a plane. Let's get up for a second and I think.


Q: OK. Where were we? I want to talk about the two. Tell me about the Fairmont mine disaster. What you know and what you saw.
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RG: Well, of course, it was, it just about wiped out a whole town in the Farmington area there and it was the, it was just total devastation, of course, and that's one of those things where you couldn't believe it, it just happened so fast. And, I think, you know, when something like, even like a coal mine disaster, or something like this, you think that well everybody's going to make a run to be able to get out, but it happened to fast that they were just all dead. I can remember going back a couple of years later and, you know, think about it and I was doing a, kind of a political survey, door to door, and everything and I couldn't find any men in the town. It was very strange, you know. I didn't think about it right off and then I started saying "can I get, where is there a man, here, can I talk to." Well, there really aren't any on this street, or something and it was very jolting. And, then it hit me again, it's like it hit me a second time. And, I thought, oh, my gosh, that's right, this town's without, you know, I guess the boys would eventually grow up and it would ??, but for, it left it a one sided town. It was unbelievable.

Q: What was the reaction within the state?
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RG: Well, I think that people were jolted at the number of people who died in it and how fast it happened. You know, you're always thinking that well's there gotta be time to rescue them. We had had several mine disasters where workers, some of the workers were rescued. It was, you know, who was lucky and who weren't. Some would find the air pockets But, in this one, bam, it was just, everybody was gone and it greatly depressed the state.

Q: What are the results of Farmington? Was that with the Union coming out and really absolving Console? Was that miners started to turn against the UMW?
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RG: Well, yea, there was feelings that, it's like there was the Union and then there's the Union Management. And, I, it's a funny thing in some of the strikes that I covered when I saw the strike starting to break, wasn't necessarily when Management was giving-in, more so than when the strikers were at odds with the Union Management. About, you know, like the business manager was doing fine back in his office while they were out on the line, hungry. And, so they started to see a lot of that and there was, that maybe the leadership had its own cause. More so than the miners, you know, it was like a power struggle.

Q: Did you cover any of the Black Lung Movement?
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RG: Oh, yes. I can remember they would keep walking the caskets through the Legislative Hallways, all the time. And, it was, kind of an eerie feeling. But, you know, it took about six years to get the Black Lung stuff. It didn't come just instantly. Sometimes, I see lobby groups, today, upset because they work the whole session and nothing happens. And, I can remember the Black Lung thing, it took six years to finally bring the Legislature around to thinking that, you know, what it was going to do.

Q: What was the essence of that whole movement? The Miners for Democracy and that.
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RG: Well, they wanted, I think that was at a time when miners suddenly realized that there were a lot of diseases that they were susceptible to. That they were coming out kind of doomed. They didn't know that, you know, for a lot of years. Of course, we know a lot more about health care than we knew before, but they didn't know that, and it was, the only thing they were supposed to watch out for was the roof caving in on them, or something like this. And, suddenly, this thing hit about that they were being disabled by merely being there. And, I think this was one of the first major health care issues. We hear about health care, today, but this was one of the first major health care issues that ever hit the Government. These people were waiting we are getting a disease, we want cared for.

Q: Was there a good response about that?
RG: Not initially. It was indignant. How dare you suggest that we.

Q: Would you say that in a complete sentence? Government.
JJHG 0736
RG: Well, government took the reaction of this as kind of contemptuous attitude. " How dare you ask us to pay for your health care." And, the miners though started saying that "they were doing an important job." It was very basic. Everybody needed the coal.

Q: Excuse me. Just start that sentence over again. "The miners."
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RG: The miners started saying that "what we are doing is important to the state," and it was. And, we need, there's a lot of things depending on it and so, if you are going to, we want some help. And, the Government, of course at first, said "no way." But, it took them about six years and they came around.

Q: Did you ever cover Arnold Miller?
RG: Yes.

Q: What do you know about Arnold?
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RG: Well, Arnold, it was kind of funny. Arnold was a product of the, he was a new type of a leader in the mines. He came out of the coal fields and everything like this, and was kind of a hero. He had a hero following there. And, it's like he wasn't some political boss, or something. He knew what it was to work the mines and the hours and everything like this. And, he would go around and a lot of the miners really locked into his cause there and everything like this. He was one of them who actually came up.

Q: And, one of their key supporters was Ken Hechler, wasn't it?
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RG: Yea. Ken was, Ken's had quite a political career working for a President and then he got in on the ground floor of politics here, you know, he was a Congressman and now is the Secretary of State. And, goes just as strong today as he did twenty or thirty years ago.

Q: We're talking to him this evening.
RG: That's good.

Q: OK. Then, boy, in between Farmington and the Black Lung Movement comes Buffalo Creek. Sure.


Q: Could you tell me about going to Buffalo Creek?
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RG: Well, Buffalo Creek was caused by a lake up on a hill that literally broke loose and washed down and just literally took out a community. I was down there the day after the disaster, and it was, I've never seen anything like it. Not only did it wreck the community, but it threw it other places. People were running around, who did survive, lots didn't. But, people were running around looking for their homes. And, said "well, here's the porch," and "see if you can match this up" and everything like this. It was, of course, there was a lot of people coming in to try and help them, but, not only were people looking for loved ones that they couldn't find. They were looking for the house. Maybe, that they are still in it, because a lot of houses got washed away. And, some people did survive. Actually, staying within the houses being washed away. But, people were out trying to find, "did you see this kind of a house," "did you see that." Never seen anything like that.

Q: Tell me about encountering a family where the parents had been. Wait. Wait. We'll pick that up.


Q: Could you tell me about the family you encountered down in Buffalo Creek?
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RG: There were several children who they couldn't find their parents and, of course, you had several homes where they couldn't find the father was missing, or the mother was missing. And, there was, actually, a move in the community, at least for the time being, to reassemble families like, OK. Well, you two kids go with her and he'll take care of you and, it's like, you know, she can cook and, it was just a matter of redesigning the neighborhood with what was left. And it was very, I thought about that for days and nights, after seeing that. You know, maybe today we would have a smoother method of doing that, but at that time, the people were trying to resolve it themselves as to who was going to care for who.

Q: What do you think the impact was. Interruption. I'm sorry. You might want to retape that one. OK. Would you mind telling me that again, please.
RG: The whole thing. How do you want me to start?

Q: Start by "there was a family."
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RG: There was a family, there were only the children survived. But, there were other children other places in the neighborhood where just the father survived or just the mother survived. And, the community was trying to put itself back together saying "well, OK, put these two children over here, she can cook for them and he can cook for this boy here and everything." Maybe today we would have a smoother way of doing that, but here the community was putting itself back together.

Q: Do you think there was some long-term scars in that community after the accident?
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RG: Oh, sure. I'm sure that these people will never forget that and anybody who went through it or was a relative and came back, you know. There were people who, like their children lived in Man or Logan or somewhere close to the area, you know, and they cam back and, of course, were just devastated by how much, like I said, it didn't just take people out. It took everything out. And, they never forgot that. I have talked to some of them since then and they can vividly remember every, every hour, every moment.

Q: What do you think the lesson of the Buffalo Creek disaster is?
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RG: Well, I think that what a lot of these people do is dangerous work. Just like we were talking about coal miners. But, this was a very dangerous set-up in that, I think one of the lessons that the state learned from that was that they've got to have some better infrastructure, better work building up. If you've got a dump or you've got a lake or something, you've got to take, invest the money and the time to start with, make sure it is built right, so that this doesn't happen again. We haven't had anything like Buffalo Creek since then.

Q: Has West Virginia always been just a dollar short from being an average state?
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RG: Well, West Virginia is a different kind of state in different places. You can go to the, to the northern panhandle and I've always, since they kind of lined up with Pennsylvania and Ohio there, you know, and everything. The thinking was kind of that way. You go down into the rural sections of the southern part of the state and they have a lifestyle of their own that isn't like southern West Virginia and it isn't like the northern panhandle. And, then you go down to southern West Virginia which, incidentally, is very much like eastern Kentucky and part of Virginia. And, it's a different lifestyle. I remember the first time I ever drove through deep, southern West Virginia. I couldn't even understand the accent of the people there, you know. They couldn't understand me. So, it's, I think that West Virginia, actually, is a state that's made up of some different kinds of communities.

Q: What do you think has kept it from being that one step better? It has always been 45th, 46th, 47th, 48th.
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RG: Because, I think that there isn't a whole lot where there's a lot of money being made and everything. There are some advantages and disadvantages to that, but I think the lifestyle, it's an easy going lifestyle -- save the disasters that we have had. But, I think for a lot of people who leave here and will come back and kind of miss the easy going lifestyle. It isn't a way that you are going to get rich and you're going to have a lot of things, but I guess we're probably surrounded by a lot of states that are very busy. And, a lot of people drift over here. Our population is growing, now a little bit. People are starting to decide, maybe this is a half decent lifestyle. Not a rich one, but a decent one.

Q: What's your personal attachment to the state?
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RG: Well, I like, of course, when I came back here again, I, there was some really interesting political races that I was really enjoying and, so, I had no urge to leave that. But, there is something else about the state that I think is kind of important. West Virginia is a state that is small enough to deal with most of its problems. Now that's the good side, the bad side is you can use that same thing to procrastinate forever and not solve anything. But, I feel more, when you see what's going on around the country like with crime and heavy traffic and pollution problems. Yea, we've got problems here. I'm not saying that. But, I always feel like whatever it is, we can deal with it, if we want to, and I'm not so sure that true in some other heavy population areas in the country. The statistics may be in their favor, but, I think, the lifestyle here is, probably, one I would choose. I feel like I can have a little more control of my fate here.

Q: Do you think there's a good future for West Virginia?
RG: Yea. I do.

Q: Describe it.
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RG: Yes. I think that there are a lot of, this is a state of small businesses as such, and everything and I think we have to kind of learn the hard way. But, the people are, roads are good. They bring people into the state. We have a good road system. Now, West Virginia, by the way, was one of the first states that undertook heavy interstates through high mountainous areas. A lot of states didn't, until we did. And, so, we've got good roads coming through here and people can come in and then I think that we have to, of course we've got a growing tourism business, and we have to kind of start inviting people in and a number of other states, that are like West Virginia, are starting to succeed, a little bit too. And, I think, I think we will, too. I think the potential is here. It's, we've got to have a better infrastructure system, drainage.
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We've got to take care of the basic things. But, and the roads to get in and out. And, suddenly, people are going to say "hey, I like that." The eastern half of the state right now is getting a tremendous surge of population from the crowded Baltimore/Washington area. The roads are good, they can get there and they can get back to work. So, I think --

Q: Is West Virginia going to be, continue to be dominated by coal, though?
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RG: No. I don't think anymore. I think that obviously the equip, we have like a fourth the number of miners as we used to have and the equipment is doing a lot of the work. And, I think that we are starting to get a lot of the other plants and everything like this, that would exist because, a lot of times when plants want to move into a state, they look at the lifestyle. Are the schools decent? Are the roads decent? Do you have, is there decent recreation? West Virginia has those things, now. It start, and in some areas, it's starting to improve them. So, I think that West Virginia has a good future and there are some people that are even worried in this state that it may get too good. That people moving in, suddenly, we will have everyone else's problems.

Q: Cut. Great. Excellent. Thank you.


Q: Richard, if you can, reduce your book to a paragraph. Tell me, briefly, about Jay's run for the governor and some of the income ??
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RG: OK. Well, of course, one of the things, he was a boy out of the big city and didn't know some of the "taboos" that existed in West Virginia. And, one of them was that I vividly remember, you didn't walk, if you were a politician and you went around to visit the miners and everything like this, you did not walk into their dressing room. That is, you could talk to them outside because, I guess, you know, they were changing clothes and showering and miners didn't like that. They didn't want somebody, a crew of reporters, trooping in with a governor while they were changing their clothes. This was, you just didn't do this. Somebody forgot to tell that to Jay, one day, and he was out in the central part of the state and he gets to a coal mine around closing time and there they're in there showering and everything, and he walks in and in come the reporters and everything like this.
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Some guys go diving for the shower and everything like this, and he starts, he's kind of new at the time, you know, and he makes his speech to them and you could see that some of the miners are a little bit irritated that he walked in there on them. And, a lot of them had no clothes on, you know, they were just standing there. They had just stepped out of the shower and, so, some of them, while he was talking, and it was all men in there, but, still some miners were kind of, you know, rubbing themselves and everything, just to torment him. Cause they knew that he was getting very uneasy. And, then they would stick their hand out to shake his hand and he wouldn't want to do it. And the guy would say "come on, shake my hand governor" And so, he would shake their hand and then he'd stand there and it just cracked us up because we knew he wasn't supposed to be there and they were getting even with him in their own subtle way.
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And, this was just one of the things that he had to learn the hard way, you know, like walking up the hollow in a pinstripe suit, you know. He started getting advisors. He had the money to start buying PR that a lot of people didn't have before that. They started saying "don't do that, don't ever walk into a coal mine, again," like that. I remember at that one when they started teasing him, and saying "you gonna bring us some of your money down here," and he would try to talk politics and all they'd keep saying was "your money."

Q: Good. Good. We've got it. That's it. OK. Are we out of film? Yea. Great. Just put a new battery in.

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Richard Grimes interview page
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