Sunday, March 26, 2023

Legislative Offices Reflect History and Culture of the Mountain State

Maya Angelou once wrote, “I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself.” That sentiment is especially true in the halls of our State Capitol where 134 lawmakers currently find themselves in the middle of the annual 60-day legislative session.

With our lawmakers being required to spend so much time in Charleston, it’s only natural that their offices contain many personal and symbolic icons representing their home districts. A quick look inside just a few of these offices reveals an eclectic mix of items representing many different cultures, industries and universities from throughout West Virginia.

So come along through the halls with me and let’s see what we can find. As we walk through the offices of the House in the East Wing, and the Senate in the West Wing, we see many of the items from home that you would expect. We can see that most lawmakers have pictures of their families, relatives from years gone by, and even pictures of themselves with various figures from both state and national politics.

We quickly notice that homemade quilts are another typical decorative theme in the halls of the Capitol. They represent the hand-made craftsmanship that is so important to all of West Virginia and they can be found in many lawmakers’ offices and various committee rooms throughout the building.

However, as routine as those items might be, a little bit of exploring reveals some things that are interesting and extremely out of the ordinary. For instance, would you ever expect to open the door to one of your state lawmaker’s offices and come face to face with a stuffed bison head sporting a Marshall University hat?

Well, that’s precisely what happens when we walk into the delegate’s office from the 15th District. While the bison does, in part, represent the delegate’s affection for the major university in her district, it also references business in West Virginia, and specifically, the bison farm that she owns.

Fear not Mountaineer fans, it’s far from just a green and white theme in the Capitol. Come along down the hall to the office of the delegate from the 13th District and you will see a picture of Mountaineer Field proudly displayed. For those of you that straddle the fence between both of our state’s major universities, the Senator from Boone County is your man.

As we head across the way to visit him in the West Wing, we will find the Senator from the 7th District reaches across the aisle to both schools, proudly displaying both WVU and Marshall memorabilia in his office. Since we came all this way, history buffs would also be remiss not to check out his map of Boone County from 1911, as well as his pictures of various southern West Virginia coal camps from years gone by.

Staying on the Senate side, we wander into the Senator’s office from the 11th District and we immediately see a proud history of public service on display. This Senator is the fourth in a proud family of politicians, and he prominently displays his father, grandfather and great-grandfather on his wall. We also get a look at the Bible of his great-grandfather, who was a minister as well as a Senator. The Bible, which dates back to 1814, lists various family genealogies in the front and is the Bible that the Senator always uses when being sworn into office.

We head over to the Senator’s office from Hancock County and we see pictures of his steel mill that used to employ up to 13,000 West Virginians. We also see a collection of hats on display from various unions, as well as a hat representing West Liberty College, located in his district. A quick walk across the hall to the Senator’s office from Jefferson County reveals pictures representing his love of trains and his support of that industry.

As we head back over to the East Wing on the House side, we see a picture of a racecar in the office of the Delegate from the 25th District. The car represents his love for stock car racing. A quick peek in the office of the Delegate from Hancock County shows an array of 1950s era pictures from his district.

A quick look inside the office of the freshman Delegate representing Taylor County shows us that many of the new delegates are still trying to arrange their office space to give them a reminder of home. We do however notice he has an award for driving nails displayed prominently.

As we head over to visit the delegate from the 29th District in Fayette County, you will see gorgeous pictures of Babcock and Hawks Nest State Parks displaying the beauty our state and this district has to offer. You will also notice a defibrillator, a pacemaker and EKGs, representing the delegate’s profession as an emergency physician.

We now find ourselves in the office of the delegate from the 43rd District in Marion County where we see various old mining photos from the Farmington mines. As our tour concludes in the office of the delegate from the 51st District in Morgan County, we see a fingerprint and footprint painted version of the American flag displayed on his wall. Childrens’ footprints make up the stripes in red, while their handprints make up the stars in blue.

There you have it. We saw an assortment of things on our brief tour, some ordinary and expected and some strange and curious. Regardless of the items on display, their meaning, and the industries, cultures, wildlife, parks and universities they represent, you can’t get past an overriding sense of home. Maya Angelou is right. Humans do long to be home wherever they find themselves and the items we have seen give these lawmakers a sense of home and family no matter how far they may be from their home districts.

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