BECKLEY, W.Va. – Scholars and historians will have access to a treasure trove of information about some of the most significant events in West Virginia during the last half of the 20th century, thanks to former Congressman Nick J. Rahall’s decision to donate the papers from his 38-year career to West Virginia University.
The Rahall Congressional Collection consists of 2,000 boxes of testimony, speeches, news releases and other documents generated during the years Rahall, a Democrat, served in Congress and showcases the impact his service has made on the nation, state and the region.
To commemorate the occasion, a ribbon cutting/celebration will be held at 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 3, at 410 Neville Street – future home of the WVU Beckley Book Store. A reception will follow.
“My grandfathers came to America from the hills and hollows of southern Lebanon to the hills and hollows of southern West Virginia,” Rahall said. “They dedicated their lives to the American dream through faith in God, hard work and a better life for their families’ future.”
During his time in Congress, Rahall introduced miner safety legislation, supported black lung benefits for miners as well as veterans and Social Security benefits. He obtained millions of dollars for highway projects, including the King Coal Highway, Coalfields Expressway and an upgrade to Route 10. Rahall successfully steered legislation that created the New River Gorge National River, and he helped establish the Gauley River National Recreation Area which today comprise the largest system of federally protected rivers in the eastern United States. He also helped create national wilderness designations in the Monongahela National Forest
“Congressman Rahall served the 3rd District and the State of West Virginia very ably and faithfully for almost four decades,” WVU President Gordon Gee said. “His papers assembled from that distinguished career constitute an incredible resource for the study of public policy and the Congress itself.
“WVU is greatly honored to host his archives, and we look forward to working with Mr. Rahall to serve the citizens of southern West Virginia for many years to come,” Gee added. “I would also like to thank Rick French and Carolyn Long for their hard work and professional diligence in seeing this project through from idea to realization.”
Carolyn Long, campus president of WVU Beckley and WVU Tech, agreed that the collection would be an important resource for the region.
“Mr. Rahall’s papers will add to the richness of the WVU system’s congressional document collection, and will offer our students a unique inside look at the life of a United States congressman who served our state and nation for nearly four decades,” Long said.
“We are very honored to host these important documents, and we look forward to learning from them as we share them with our students and the communities of southern West Virginia.”
West Virginia University will promote partnerships with Marshall and Concord universities, the Robert C. Byrd Center for Legislative Studies and the West Virginia State Archives to further utilize the Rahall Archives.
“I am grateful to West Virginia University’s Dr. Gordon Gee, Carolyn Long and Rick French, and my long time chief of staff, Kent Keyser, for helping me with this opportunity to bring the archives of my decades of public service all together in my hometown,” Rahall said. “By partnering with other educational bodies, I want to continue to improve this great state and opportunities for its people. My hopes and my heart shall forever be in these West Virginia hills.”
Rahall served southern West Virginia from 1977 to 2015 in the U.S. House of Representatives. During his tenure, he chaired the Natural Resources Committee and served as the top Democrat on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.
Rahall was born in Beckley and graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School. He received his undergraduate degree from Duke University and attended graduate school at The George Washington University.
This is the latest of several high-profile gifts of papers to the University’s Library collection. Last year WVU was designated to house the papers of former Sen. Jay Rockefeller and writer Pearl S. Buck. The Rahall papers will join and complement the extensive body of congressional papers in the West Virginia and Regional History Center, including those of Rockefeller and former West Virginia congressman and governor Arch Moore Jr. In particular, the papers will be a valuable educational resource for students and faculty in WVU’s new Rockefeller School for Policy and Politics.
For information on accessing Rahall’s papers, contact John Cuthbert, director and curator of the West Virginia and Regional History Center of the WVU Libraries at 304-293-7531 or [email protected].
The WVU event is being held in coordination with the City of Beckley’s annual Chili Night, where thousands gather for a block party along the streets of uptown Beckley.