By Jody Brumage
On July 14, 1962, an editorial column in the Dominion News proclaimed the occurrence of “An occasion history may well rank with the Wright Brothers first flight; Marconi’s message, and the first telegraphic epic of our time.” As the world witnessed this momentous event, one West Virginian congressman played a unique role in the occasion.
The first telephone call to be transmitted over Telstar was between Vice President Lyndon Johnson and Frank R. Kappel, Chairman of AT&T and leader of the development of the project. Images of the phone call were also transmitted via Telstar, showing both Johnson and Kappel. Sitting immediately behind the Vice President was West Virginia Congressman Harley O. Staggers, Sr. Together, the two men were captured in the first photograph ever transmitted via Satellite.
Improving the nation’s transportation and communications infrastructure remained important goals for Congressman Staggers, Sr. throughout his career. As Chairman of the House Interstate and Foreign Commerce Committee (1966-1981), he had a hand in supporting many advances in both areas. Shortly after the launch, Congressman Staggers, Sr. wrote to Vice President Johnson, requesting that he sign a copy of the famous photograph to keep as a memento of the historic occasion.