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Today in history

Legislature honors heroism, not political courage

One of Democrat William Marland’s first acts as governor couldn’t have been more dramatic: On Jan. 22, 1953, he asked lawmakers to create a severance tax on coal, oil, gas and other natural resources – something he hadn’t mentioned in his inaugural address nor on the campaign trail. Despite backing from labor groups and West Virginia’s leaders in Congress along with Marland’s prediction that the new tax could generate about $18 million annually – thus solving the state’s road and school problems – the idea died at the hands of the coal industry, the GOP minority in the state Senate and House, and the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce. Marland’s political future was doomed. He returned to his work as a lawyer, eventually relocating to Chicago where in 1961 a reporter discovered the washed-up politician working as a cab driver – shocking news that made headlines nationwide. He called a news conference to explain that he’d switched careers for sobriety’s sake and to hold in check his ambitions. Soon he’d accepted invitations to appear on Jack Paar’s popular TV show and for higher-profile work, back in West Virginia. But Marland was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and died at 47 on Nov. 26, 1965.

William Marland

William Marland

A joint resolution by the West Virginia Legislature was adopted on Jan. 22, 1901 to honor

Andrew S. Rowan

Andrew S. Rowan

Spanish-American war hero and West Virginia native Capt. Andrew S. Rowan, who in May 1898 following the outbreak of that war landed a boat off the coast of Cuba and crossed the island in three weeks to deliver a message to General Calixto Garcia. The assignment, which earned Rowan the Distinguished Service Cross, was memorialized in 1899 in “A Message to Garcia” by Elbert Hubbard, who wrote: The point I wish to make is this: (President William) McKinley gave Rowan a letter to be delivered to Garcia; Rowan took the letter and did not ask, “Where is he at?” By the Eternal! there is a man whose form should be cast in deathless bronze and the statue placed in every college of the land.  It is not book-learning young men need, nor instruction about this and that, but a stiffening of the vertebrae which will cause them to be loyal to a trust, to act promptly, concentrate their energies: do the thing – “Carry a message to Garcia!”

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