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Afflicting the Comfortable

Journalism and Politics in West Virginia

Thomas F. Stafford

Publication Year: 2005

In 1990, the New York Times wrote, "Government corruption was not invented in West Virginia. But there are people who contend that West Virginia officials have done more than their share over the years to develop state-of-the-art techniques in vote theft, contract kickbacks, influence peddling and good old-fashioned bribery, extortion, fraud, tax evasion and outright stealing." While investigating such events as the Invest Right scandal, Thomas Stafford, a former journalist for the Charleston Gazette, would find himself in a very precarious position. As a reporter he felt obligated to tell the whole truth, and he believed in the need to serve the public and those West Virginians who were being abused by a political machine. In Afflicting the Comfortable, Stafford relates such tales of the responsibility of journalism and politics in coordination with scandals that have unsettled the Mountain State over the past few decades. His probing would take him from the halls of Charleston to the center of our nation's ruling elite. Guided by his senses of duty, right, and fairness, he plunged head first into the misdeeds of West Virginia's politicians. His investigations would be the preface to the downfall of a governor and an administration that had robbed the state and the citizens of West Virginia for years.

Published by: West Virginia University Press

Front Cover

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Cover Flaps

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West Virginia and Appalachia Series Page

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xiv

THE YEAR 1968 WAS A "BRUTE OF A YEAR," Thomas Stafford writes in his memoir, Affiicting the Comfortable: Journalism and Politics in West Virginia. During that year, the USS Pueblo was seized by the North Koreans; in Vietnam the Viet Cong launched the Tet Offensive; Martin Luther King, Jr. was...

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pp. xv-xviii

OVER THE YEARS MORE THAN ONE PERSON has urged me to write a book on West Virginia politics, particularly on my experiences with the Invest Right scandal, one of the most politically unsettling news stories ever to appear in this state and one with far-reaching ramifications. In the mid-1980s Dr. George...

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pp. xix-xx

I WOULD LIKE TO OFFER my thanks to those persons and institutions that helped me assemble the information that went into this book...

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Introduction: Three Words

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pp. 1-6

IT STARTED OUT like a bad detective novel. I walked out of the bar and down the hall, passing a man who slipped me a large, brown envelope. We spoke cordially but briefly, about nothing of importance; then I went out the door and down the steps to the street on a cool October evening in 1962...

Part One

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pp. 7-85

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1. Depression Politics

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pp. 9-17

WEST VIRGINIA'S EASTERN BORDER extends nearly to Washington, DC. Its northern border pushes north of Pittsburgh. Its western border goes longitudinally beyond Cleveland. Its southern border is latitudinally south of Richmond. As one wit joked, "It's a great state for the shape it's in...

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2. A New Battlefront

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pp. 18-25

THE GOVERNOR WHO FOLLOWED Matthew Neely into office in 1944, Clarence "Fats" Meadows, was an uncomplicated man but an agile practitioner of the political arts. A native of Beckley, he was charming and facile, a raconteur with more tales to tell than an old vaudeville comedian. And in a small and...

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3. Editorial Influence

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pp. 26-34

THE ELECTION OF OKEY PATTESON as Meadows's successor was a given and allowed the governor's office to continue the development and implementation of policies already in place. Patteson, who had been successful in the sale of motor cars and real estate...

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4. A Byrd's Eye View

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pp. 35-43

THE PUBLIC DISCLOSURE of Byrd's membership in the Ku Klux Klan during his younger years was considered a heaven-sent gift by the political establishment in West Virginia. When this morsel of intriguing news appeared in the press, Byrd was little more than one of a number of rising stars on the political...

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5. A Man for Another Season

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pp. 44-55

WILLIAM CASEY MARLAND broke the mold when he became West Virginia's twenty-fourth governor on January 19, 1953. From the outset of his term he let it be known that he had no intention of acting as waterboy for the land barons and industrial giants who had dominated state...

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6. Political Shake-Up

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pp. 56-68

THE 1956 ELECTION YEAR was a politically exciting time in West Virginia. Democrats turned testy while Republicans shouted with glee when Cecil Harland Underwood was elected as the state's twenty-fifth governor. Such behavior was understandable. Underwood was the first Republican...

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7. "One Brief, Shining Moment"

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pp. 69-85

DURING THE 1960 ELECTION YEAR, West Virginia moved into the national political spotlight when John F. Kennedy and Hubert H. Humphrey squared off against each other in a bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. A prelude to this confrontation had been staged four years earlier in the...

Part Two

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pp. 87-212

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8. He Never Used the Broom

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pp. 89-101

WEST VIRGINIA'S TWENTY-SIXTH GOVERNOR, William Wallace Barron, elected to office in 1960 on the same ballot as Kennedy, used to tell the story about walking out of church as a boy while his father was delivering a sermon. "Why did you do that?" Dr. Fred Barron asked his son later...

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9. "Run It Up the Flagpole

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pp. 102-110

GOVERNOR BARRON ENJOYED one distinct advantage not afforded any of his predecessors. West Virginia celebrated its hundredth birthday during his administration. During the centennial year of 1963 Barron made numerous public appearances around the state, attending a hundred celebrations, according to...

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10. The Ripple Effect

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pp. 111-118

WHEN I BEGAN TO EXPAND my search for Invest Right, I turned to a technique used by Secretary of State Joe F. Burdette in his political campaigns. Burdette, a brash, self-assured career public servant, often talked about how he beat his opposition in his run for statewide office from his home base in one of...

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11. Uncharted Territory

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pp. 119-136

SINCE I SEEMED TO BE GETTING NOWHERE using standard reportorial techniques, I decided that the only way I might be able to pull together the Invest Right story was to work my way inside the defenses of those I was investigating. But this was like plunging into a deep forest where there were no roads...

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12. A Sense of Passion

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pp. 137-151

DURING A RECESS of the Board of Public Works I was sitting in the hearing room talking to Dr. Mildred Bateman, commissioner of mental institutions and a recognized authority in the field of psychiatric medicine. "Tom," she said in her quiet way, "you're a nice person to be around at times...

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13. "I've Got a Proposition"

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pp. 152-160

AFTER ALMOST TWO YEARS of trying to decipher the puzzle of Invest Right, I began to realize that some as yet unidentifiable persons were becoming worried. Just how worried became apparent when I received, first, an offer of a money deal to try to persuade me to drop my investigation, followed by...

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14. The Threat of Libel

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pp. 161-167

DURING A RECESS of the Republican State Convention at Clarksburg in the summer of 1964, Mary Heineman, a delegate from Randolph County, came to me and quietly asked, "How are you doing with your investigation?" By this time most of the insiders in both political parties knew what I was...

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15. Striking Gold

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pp. 168-176

WHY, I WOULD ASK IN A SERIES OF ARTICLES, would a company in Elkins with half the state's tire recapping business pay money through a Florida corporation to the West Virginia State Democratic Executive Committee? Why would a corporation created by West Virginians in the state of Ohio...

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16. Going to Press

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pp. 177-181

I HAD BARELY FINISHED the first of a four-part series on the Invest Right story when I learned that efforts were being made to stop publication before it even reached the Gazette copy desk. Hoffmann called and said, "They're trying to kill it." I hadn't told anybody that I had actually begun writing,...

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17. A Promise Curtailed

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pp. 182-194

"I HAVE PLEDGED that I would give this state an 'Administration of Excellence'- an administration which will demand the highest standards of ethics, integrity, and honesty from dedicated and qualified public servants, and never tolerate incompetence or mediocrity...

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18. "It Wasn't Any Pleasure"

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pp. 195-200

IT WAS ONE OF THOSE TASTEFULLY ELEGANT holiday parties shortly before Christmas. The company was pleasant and the conversation stimulating. The food and liquid refreshment were excellent, as one would expect at such an affair. The host, after all, was Clarence Elmore, state liquor commissioner...

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19. Storm Warnings

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pp. 201-205

THE ADMINISTRATION OF GOVERNOR HULETT SMITH was a period of great promise, grand illusions, some important legislative breakthroughs, and terrible tragedy. After an initial two years spent primarily on planning and achieving some small victories, Smith's final two years provided a study in contrasts...

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20. The Party Faithless

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pp. 206-212

AFTER LEAVING OFFICE, Barron opened a law office in downtown Charleston with John E. Davis. A few of the faithful, thinking him still electable, mounted a campaign in the fall of 1967 to run him again for governor, sporting "Wally by Golly" buttons and bumper stickers and taking out full-page ads in...

Image Gallery [Image Plates]

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Part Three

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pp. 213-300

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21. The Strength of Their Convictions

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pp. 215-223

WHEN WALLY BARRON became West Virginia's twenty-sixth governor, he informed the voters in his inaugural address, "My coworkers and I are possessed with boundless confidence that our goals will be reached and surpassed." Surpassed they were, but probably not in the fashion he had envisioned...

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22. Why?

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pp. 224-233

WHY DID A MAN with the breeding, education, and leadership abilities of Wi lliam Wallace Barron allow one of the blackest pages in West Virginia history to be written while he was governor? Barron's father was a Presbyterian minister and college president. His...

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23. Judicial Remedy

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pp. 234-244

WEST VIRGINIA'S LAWMAKERS sat up and took notice after Barron and his friends were indicted on Valentine's Day 1968. At the Statehouse, the legislature, and the governor's office, both went to work on corrective measures. Governor Smith, unhappy to find the image of his "Administration of Excellence" soiled...

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24. Moore Controversies

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pp. 245-255

ARCH ALFRED MOORE became the third member of the 1952-53 House of Delegates to ascend to the state's highest elective office. As West Virginia's twenty-eighth governor, he followed former delegates Underwood and Barron into the chief executive's suite...

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25. A Lifetime Commitment

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pp. 256-273

GOVERNOR JOHN DAVISON ROCKEFELLER IV melded the personal philosophy of the original John D. with his own in his first inaugural message. A guiding precept of John the First was that "willful waste makes woeful want." John the Fourth, who went by his nickname, Jay, adhered to his...

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26. Third Time Around

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pp. 274-286

AFTER THE UNCHARACTERISTIC EQUANIMITY of the Rockefeller years, the world of West Virginia politics was about to get boisterous again: Arch Moore was back. He was more restrained in his third inaugural speech than he had been in his first two. When he took the oath of office on January 14, 1985, as the first...

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27. Three Words Again

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pp. 287-300

ON DECEMBER 12, 1988, one month after Gaston Caperton had been elected West Virginia's new governor, Fanny Seiler reported in the Gazette that a surplus of nearly $53.4 million had been mysteriously lost from the state's Consolidated Investment Fund...

Part Four

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pp. 301-320

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28. Caperton's Inheritance

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pp. 303-309

WEST VIRGINIA'S THIRTIETH GOVERNOR, Gaston Caperton, took office under economic and political stresses similar to those faced by Kump in 1933. The state was almost bankrupt. Unemployment soared above the national average. Families were leaving the mountains in large numbers, hoping to find a better...

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29. Once Too Often

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pp. 310-320

ALGERNON SIDNEY, in his 1698 Discourses on Government, noted, "Liars have good memories." Moore had long been known for his own remarkable memory, but at the age of sixty-six, it apparently failed him. Moore had a reputation for turning fact into fiction throughout his public career...

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pp. 321-322

"OH, DADDY, what's going to happen to West Virginia now?" Margo asked, a heavy note of sadness in her voice. W. E. "Ned" Chilton, publisher of The Charleston Gazette, had just died of a heart attack as he walked off a squash-ball court in Washington, DC...


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pp. 323-331

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9781935978077
E-ISBN-10: 1935978071
Print-ISBN-13: 9781933202044
Print-ISBN-10: 1933202041

Page Count: 331
Publication Year: 2005