Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on June 6, 1976 · Page 76
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June 6, 1976

Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 76

Charleston, West Virginia
Issue Date:
Sunday, June 6, 1976
Page 76
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Page 76 article text (OCR)

SPEAKING OF BOOKS The thralldom of West Virginia Death of English "WEST VIRGINIA AND THE TAPTAINS OF INDUSTRY," by John Alexander Williams, West Virginia University Library, ?"· One political administration after another has come and gone during the 113 years of West Virgimas history. And yet another is coming up in this election year. . Whether the upcoming administration is headed by Democrat John D. Rockefeller IV or by former Gov. Cecil Underwood, the Republican standard bearer, it remains to be seen if the new administration succeeds in changing what is traditionally called the state's "colonial political econo- This term grows out of the well- founded belief that West Virginia and its resources now and practically always have been dominated by outside interests in New York, Richmond, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh. Outsiders have acted singularly or together to keep the state in the economic thralldom of colon- ia Down through the years, absentee owners have known how to profit from infighting among state politicians and how to deal with state leaders, or "captains of industry as they are called by Dr. Williams. His took results from his Ph.D. dissertation at Yale University. He teaches history at WVU. In his book, Williams focuses on the history of West Virginia between 1880 and 1913. During this period there developed what he terms "the complex of social pathologies that would eventually be identified with Appalachia.' He examines this development and focuses upon four principal captains of industry in the Mountain State. They are Johnson N. Camden (1828-1908), Henry Gassaway Davis (1823-1916), his son-in-law Stephen B Elkins (1841-1911), and Nathan B 'Scotfwa 1 s a Wheeling glass manufacturer, banker and mining mag- na Elkins belonged to a family that developed coal and railroad enterprises in the northeastern section of the state. They extended their interests to banks and other businesses in more than 20 West Virginia communities. , Davis was the guiding light ol what became known as Davis-lMK- fns enterprises. These leaders gave money and property to found Davis and Elkins College. Not the least of the four captains Agitating pilgrim "WEST VIRGINIA PILGRIM," by James Lewis, The Seabury Press, ?8.95 The Rev. James Lewis has never learned the art of ambiguity. This fact is seen in his involvement witn issues affecting the welfare of people. It appears again and again in his first book. Wesl Virginia Pilgrim IS essentially a collection of experiences of neoole a few of the author himself, but usually day by day experiences where this parish priest was related to others. Most of the happenings took place when the author was rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Martinsburg, Berkeley County. , , , ., The format is unique. Instead of the customary chapter headings, the vignettes are centered around the eight Canonical Hours, seldom heard of today, but used historically as prayer times organized around the clock, day and night This is another book you do not want "to put down " The life glimpses hold your interest. Some are amusing, some tragic. Some make you feel Lewis has known the same people you know. Some make o m e e t h e author had gone further with a particular experience. For example, he tells how, after a sermon, a parishioner called and said: · · Y o u ' r e nothing but a goddamned agitator, Lewis and I m going to see what I can do about y °Lewis talked the man into having lunch but there is nothing about the fim CHARLESTON. W.VA. luncheon. . Yet there is more. The wife of the disgruntled member had trouble with the washing machine. A new agitator was needed. Lewis writes: . ,, . "You'll never convince Rob Weakly or, for that matter, a large nortion of Christendom, that an agitator in the church is a blessing and not a curse. They can't see that the church has a responsibility to cleanse individual and corporate life, shaking the dirty spots out. This is good theology and there is much more of it. This book could be an eye-opener to some who claim the church "has had it " and is now irrelevantly subsisting on the side streets of life Lewis indicates that when he arrived at Trinity he was not at all sure about the validity of the parish. But, he says, "Now I am a believer. The parish ministry has more life and earth, more blood and guts than any other institution I know." And in Virginia Pilgrim he shares many of the day and i.ight experiences that led to this position. , . One might raise a question about the title of the book. It deals mostly with experiences in a corner ot West Virginia, but the same experiences take place in Alabama and California and elsewhere. But this much is evident: If West Virginia and all other states had more pilgrims like Jim Lewis, life would be different, and better. William A. Benficld Jr. (Dr. Benfield is the pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Charleston) . of industry, by any means whatsoever, was Camden, a founder of West Virginia's oil industry, tie was an associate of the original John D Rockefeller and Standard Oil Co. Camden was a developer of railroad, coal and timber enterprises in the northern and central sections of the state. William writes: . . . "These fo«r were West Virginia's richest and most powerful men by 1900. They led both major political parties, Davis and Camden as Democrats, Elkins and Scott as Republicans. They represented the state in Congress and in other areas of national politics The author notes that there were other men like them in the state but the four were most powerful by the turn of the century^ Others during the period included A Brooks Fleming and Clarence W. Watson of Fairmont, and John E Kenna, William A. MacCorkle and William E Chilton, all Charleston lawyers known in some circles as members of "the Charleston Gang or Kana- W The 'fart that there were many powerful men and political rings will lead some readers and scholars to think no doubt that Williams has selected from the lot four goats to scape for the historical economic plight of the state. Although a case can be made for such a contention, the book, nevertheless, doesn't seek to make scapegoats of the four in examining the impact of their lives on West V The n re'are those, however, who may think with considerable justification that Williams at times gets out of focus when picturing his principals in the national pohtica arena. They and the question at hand get lost at points in the wheeler-dealer shadows. But West Virginia's social and economic problems aren t to be blamed solely on politics and politicians, Williams brings out. Part of the problem, ironically, lies in the state's greatest natural resource, coal, and related factors. West Virginia coal has had its ups and downs in the marketplace throughout coal's history. In addition to the "mine wars" between 1912 and the late 1930's, the industry has been plagued from time to time - as it is today - by declining productivity. . It has faced stiff competition n the marketplace from other fuels and other coal producing areas as well. And today, it should be added. West Virginia coal, and Eastern coal generally, lacks the benefit o a national energy policy with coal as the centerpiece. Past difficulties of the West Virginia coal industry and other segments of the economy make Williams doubt t h a t "resident ownership would have eliminated the most glaring evils - the violence poverty, and human dislocation 'for which West Virginia became notorious during the 20th Bv Jay Sharbutt NEW YORK (AP)-A conversation with Edwin Newman the vet. pl n NBC correspondent, interviewer, occasional anchorman and author of a book decrying the abuse of the English language in modern Q e Ed, some might call you a_ facilitator of interpersonal discorse and a communicator who verbto es the interface of media filtration and reality, is this sort of nonsense what prompted you to w r i t e «Slr«cf/j- Speaking: Witt Amenta Be the Death of English? A Yes it is . . . there were some other things that maybe were a bit more grave. I think those of us in Se news business sometimes pump out a good deal of nonsense-I cer- Kdid- and by using certain Ss over and over again, we lead people to believe there's some reality in them. A' Well, when I was an NBC correspondent in Paris, for examp e, I wa SsP turning, out story after story about something called the Multi- Lateral Nuclear Force. One day 1 woke up and said to myself, I m not going to do any more stories about this unless something happens, unless there begins to be ^''££^^te'TM$ Lateral Nuclear Force which, practically speaking, was never heard of again . . . * Q. How's your book done since it esp any faults to be found with it - real and fancied - this book makes a distinct contribution to a better understanding of the history of West Virginia and the history of Appalachia. 3 Edward Peeks y o n k clubs, i n hard coVer it's gone over 200,000 J paperback. I'm not certain, but it was over 900,000 a few months ago. Now this relates to what I was talking about before .. . Yes I object to the kind of lan- guage'you quoted at the beginning. I think that language is taking a grip on the United States, especially because of the influence of the social scientists. But there is this additional point. There is a misuse of the language for a purpose, a political purpose and I believe one reason this book did as well as it did is that it came after Vietnam and Watergate. People understood how lan- luaee could be used to mislead them to conceal rather than reveal obviously they-Vietnam and Watergate-helped create a mood or climate of opinion in which this subject seemed to people to be worth considering . . . People understood the connection between the use of words and the use of ideas, the fact that words could be used to clothe ideas that don't have any reality . . . To put it the way I often do, the use of nonsensical language leads to the advocacy of nonsensical ideas. And the advocacy of nonsensical ideas, by the law of averages alone, leads to the adoption of nonsensical ideas. *· Q. Still, even today it seems one can't escape such words or phrases, as "self-actualizing," "supportive," "viable solution" or, in the Washington area, "slippage," "overview." "and "parameter. Who is turning all this loose on the public and why? A Many of these words are from the social sciences. The social sciences, I believe, are the great focus of infection. The infection spreads from there to politics and from politics to journalism . .. The key to all these words is pomposity. Another key is the use of jargon to create the impression that what you're doing is somehow hard to understand and requires special training . . . and the smaller the idea, usually the more grandiose the language in which it is clothed . . . ., There's a great reluctance on the part of anybody now to say. "I'm going to talk to somebody." Everyone wants to say, "We must have a dialogue," because it somehow sounds more important. Somebody sent me one about a sociologist at the University of Southern California. In writing about murder and assault, he classified them as "escalated interpersonal altercations." ^ Q Your book also twits the English for what they're doing to the language. Are imported Americanisms to blame for the damage or can Britain claim sole credit? A Well, they do import a great deal yes. The reason is that they don't have the resources of their own but having an active social science field, they can produce their own. My daughter lives in Scotland now and is herself a social scientist. She supplied me with one phrase in which a family was described as "micro-cluster of structured role expectations." Q Even though your book on language abuse is quite jovial, don t you feel you've put yourself in a kind of verbal and scrivened minefield, that one slip by you and massive explosions will ensue? A. (Laughing) Yes, I do indeed. There are mistakes in the book, Dy the way. The thing that struck me about the letters I got correcting the mistakes in the book was that they were all so good-humored. fr- Q Which leads to the last question. Your final chapter defends the art of punning and indeed offers some Now, many people react to puns with loud cries. Why are you contributing to the handwriting on ITbe'lieve that people who react to puns with loud cries and moans are envious of those who can pun . . . this leads to a point I triedi to make in the book, a point that is perhaps overlooked occasional^. The point is, English can be a tremdndous amount of f u n . And we're not having it for two reasons. One is that we're using thisi jargon, this deplorable jargon. The second is that phrases become popular so ^People speak in slogans, trick phrases. People want to use whatever the latest slogan or tr CK phrase happens to be. They want be up with the fashion, whatever it ' S And that's death to conversation . . . and death to the language. June 6, Id76, Sunday Gazette-Mail

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