By Jody Brumage
This week marks the 153rd anniversary of West Virginia. Each year on June 20, the state celebrates the day on which West Virginia gained statehood following a proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln. Annual celebrations of the holiday take place in the state capitol, Charleston, as well as Wheeling, the city that is considered West Virginia's birthplace. The celebration often continues beyond the state's borders, to the nation's capitol, where West Virginia's senators and representatives join annually to recognize their home state's anniversary. In honor of West Virginia Day, we want to share a few of the images from our archives of these celebrations.
West Virginia's congressional delegation joins President Kennedy at the White House for a special celebration of the state's 100th birthday in 1963. Back Row (L to R) Congressmen John Slack, Ken Hechler, and Harley O. Staggers, Sr.; Front Row (L to R) Congressman Arch Moore II, Senators Jennings Randolph and Robert Byrd, President John F. Kennedy, and Governor William W. Barron.
While still in his first term in the United States Senate in 1963, Senator Byrd participated in the centennial anniversary of West Virginia's statehood. As celebrations took place across the state in the summer of 1963, the state's delegation members in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives gathered at the White House for a special ceremony during which Governor William Barron presented a West Virginia flag to President John F. Kennedy. You can view a clip from the ceremony on the Spotlight West Virginia YouTube channel.
President Kennedy joined the state for its centennial celebration on June 20, 1963 when he addressed a large crowd from the Capitol in Charleston, recollecting his time campaigning in the state in 1960 and declaring that "this State was born to turmoil. It has known sunshine and rain in a hundred years, but I know of no State, and I know this State well, whose people feel more strongly, who have a greater sense of pride in themselves, in their State and in their country, than the people of West Virginia."
The annual celebration of West Virginia's statehood continues to be marked in events throughout the state and beyond. In 2013, the state marked its 150th birthday with a year-long schedule of programs and celebrations, including an online exhibition, a festival in Charleston with a fireworks display over the Capitol, and the opening of a new display in the Culture Center, featuring several items from Senator Byrd's collection.
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