By FRED PACE
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — West Virginia’s long tradition of inaugural celebrations will have a new twist this year, with the inaugural ball being held at the iconic Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, which is owned by Gov.-elect Jim Justice.
Justice will take the oath of office at 1 p.m. Monday, Jan. 16, on the Kanawha River side of the West Virginia State Capitol. The ceremony will be followed by a receiving line in the lower rotunda of the Capitol building and then a reception at the Cultural Center Great Hall. Noted pianist Bob Thompson will perform at that event.
Later, the celebration moves to The Greenbrier with the ball beginning at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $75 and available at www.InaugurationWV.com. The event is black tie optional.
Inaugural committee co-chairs Cathy Justice, Dr. Jill Justice and Jay Justice announced the theme and logo for Justice’s inaugural festivities: “It’s West Virginia’s Time.”
“It’s West Virginia’s time to really shine,” Dr. Jill Justice, co-chair of the Inaugural Committee, said in a news release. “West Virginia has the talent and the opportunities to thrive; the Governor-elect will make sure we play to every single one of our strengths. No one will work harder than my dad for the people and to make our state number one.”
Rebecca Stepto, executive director of the West Virginia Ethics Commission, says that since the Justice’s Inaugural Committee is a private entity, there is no conflict of interest in have the ball at The Greenbrier.
“As long as it doesn’t involve public monies, private entities are not subject to the state’s Ethics Act,” she said.
The history of inaugural activities in addition to the swearing in ceremony go back to West Virginia’s first governor, according to the West Virginia Division of Culture and History’s “Taking The Oath: 150 years of Gubernatorial Inaugurations.”
With the capital back in Wheeling in 1875, the inauguration of Henry M. Mathews took place on March 5, 1877. Mathews’ inauguration was a more elaborate affair than previous inaugurals had been, beginning a trend that subsequent governors continued.
Activities began with a procession of officials from the governor’s reception room down the halls of the second Wheeling capitol to the west front where the swearing-in ceremony took place. Following his inaugural address, Mathews took the oath of office. That evening, a public reception was held in the Senate, followed by a ball in the House of Delegates and supper in the Supreme Court.
When he became governor on March 4, 1933, Herman Guy Kump was the last West Virginia governor to be inaugurated in March. He also was the first governor to be inaugurated at the present state capitol building. Activities for the “bread and water” inaugural, as Kump’s less grand inauguration at the height of the Great Depression was termed, began with the largest inaugural parade as of that date.
After the ceremonies concluded, Governor and Mrs. Kump hosted an informal luncheon at the Governor’s Mansion. Afterwards, the Women’s Democratic Club of Charleston held a tea at the Woman’s Club for the governor’s wife and wives of the members of the Board of Public Works. In what the Charleston Daily Mail described as “the largest inaugural reception” in the state’s history, for three hours the Kumps received thousands of people in the governor’s reception room at the capitol. Although there was no official inaugural ball, the Pioneer Club sponsored a formal dance at the Kanawha Country Club in connection with the inauguration, and Governor and Mrs. Kump as well as other officials were guests of honor.
In 1957, after the formal ceremonies ended, Gov. Cecil Underwood held a reception for the high school musicians who had participated in the parade, the first and only time that such an event was held as part of a gubernatorial inauguration. Afterwards, a semi-formal dance, sponsored by the Young Republicans, was held at the Daniel Boone Hotel.
In 1983, after the federal government declared Martin Luther King Jr. Day a holiday every third Monday in January, inaugurations became a multi-day event.
In 1984, Arch Moore became the first person elected to a third four-year term as governor. As he had done 12 years earlier in 1973, Moore held a $100-a-plate inaugural gala at the Charleston Civic Center on the day before the inauguration.
On January 16, 1989, Arch Moore was succeeded by Gaston Caperton. As with other recent inaugurations, activities began the day before the official ceremony with an inaugural gala fundraiser at the Marriott Hotel, where those who paid $1,000 per couple ate crepe suzette, sauted shrimp and scallops, beef tenderloin, shrimp in Chinese pea pods, pt and puff pastry, and drank wine.
Caperton’s inauguration was the first in West Virginia since Martin Luther King Jr. Day had become a federal holiday. On the morning of Jan. 16, Caperton and his wife, Dee, attended a tribute to Dr. King at the Cultural Center before attending a brunch at the governor’s mansion.
A new feature, ringing of the bell in honor of Martin Luther King Jr., was added to the formal ceremonies. Following the new governor’s inaugural address and the singing of “Amazing Grace” as the benediction, a public reception was held in the rotunda, with refreshments and entertainment at the Cultural Center. That evening, a VIP reception was held at the Marriott before the inaugural ball at the Civic Center.
In 2005, Joe Manchin III continued having an interfaith prayer service at the Municipal Auditorium on the Sunday before his inauguration as part of the inaugural activities, but he added a Mass at Sacred Heart Co-Cathedral prior to that service. On Sunday evening, an appreciation dinner was held for financial contributors for inaugural events.
As had been the case with recent inaugurations, a public reception was held in the rotunda, with refreshments and entertainment provided in the Cultural Center. The evening concluded with the inaugural ball, which utilized five areas of the Civic Center and included 11 live performers.
Manchin’s second inauguration in 2009 brought activities that were both similar to and different from his inauguration four years earlier. A public reception in the rotunda followed the conclusion of the ceremony, with refreshments and entertainment provided in the Cultural Center.
Events concluded with the inaugural ball at the Civic Center, decorated around the theme of seasons.
Elected to fill the unexpired of Sen. Robert C. Byrd after his death in June 2010, Manchin resigned as governor on Nov. 15, 2010, and was succeeded by Earl Ray Tomblin, Senate President, as acting governor.
The following day, an investiture ceremony for Tomblin was held in front of the Senate Chamber. Tomblin was elected to fill Manchin’s unexpired term on Oct. 4, 2011. He took the oath in a private ceremony shortly after noon Nov. 13, 2011, immediately after he resigned as state senator, but also was inaugurated as the state’s 35th governor in a public ceremony on the south side of the capitol. A public reception was held in the Great Hall of the Culture Center.
A year later, Tomblin was elected to a full term, and his second inauguration took place on Jan. 14, 2013. The governor was privately sworn in shortly after midnight by Kanawha County Judge Tod Kaufman. The public ceremony was held on the south portico at 1 p.m., during which the governor gave his inaugural address and was followed by a public reception in the Culture Center.
Tomblin’s inauguration was scaled back from those of other recent West Virginia governors. The inauguration was only the second January inauguration not to coincide with the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday since the holiday was first observed in West Virginia in 1986. Activities did not include an inaugural parade, which had been revived under Manchin. In addition, the inaugural ball was moved from the Charleston Civic Center to the Clay Center, which accommodated fewer people.
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