Famous West Virginians (A)

Last revision: Feb. 10, 2009


John James Abert (1788-1863) as Chief of the Army Topographical Bureau was in charge of scientific exploration and topographical descriptions of the land west of the Mississippi River in the early 1830s. He was a founder of the National Institute of Science in Washington, D. C., which was later absorbed into the Smithsonian Institute. He was born in Shepherdstown (then in Virginia).

David Adair, described as "an internationally recognized expert in space technology spinoff applications for industry and commercial use," claims that in 1960 he was taken 20 stories underground at the secret Area 51 base in Nevada to help figure out how an extraterrestrial engine taken from a UFO worked. On the engine cowling were "hieroglyphic"-like ET symbols. He says the UFO device was eventually identified an electro-magnetic fusion-containment engine. Adair is a West Virginia native.

Donivon Edwin Adams was a progressive innovator as warden of the West Virginia Penitentiary at Moundsville. Appointed to the position by Governor Underwood, he officiated at the last three executions held in West Virginia. Adams was liked by inmates, and could walk in the excercise yard without fear of attack. He organized a quartet of prisoners who sang at churches around the state.

Gail Galloway Adams (1943- ) won the 1988 Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction for her collection The Purchase of Order. She was born in Texas but is a long-time resident of Morgantown.

Dr. Hunter "Patch" Adams (1945- ), the subject of a movie starring Robin Williams, founded the Gesundheit! Institute, a 40-bed free hospital in Hillsboro, West Virginia. He was born in Washington, D. C., and raised in northern Virginia.

Noah Adams, the former long-time co-host of NPR's All Things Considered, began his radio career at WIRO in Ironton, Ohio, and worked also at WCMI in Ashland, Ky., and WSAZ radio station in Huntington.

Rex D. Adams is currently the Dean of the Business School at Duke University and previously was a Vice President of Mobil Oil Corporation. He is a Rhodes Scholar and was Academic All-American in football at Duke in 1961. He is a native of Rainelle.

Bob Adkins, an end for the Green Bay Packers during the World War II era who died in 1997 at age 80. While at Marshall University, Adkins helped the Thundering Herd go undefeated in 1937. He coached football and taught at Point Pleasant High School. He was born in Point Pleasant.

Hasil Adkins (1937-2005), a rockabilly star who recorded the album Out to Hunch, was called by one critic "America's premier rockabilly one man band" and "a cult hero among freak-rock cognoscenti." He was from Boone county and lived near Madison. His website is here. He died at his home near Bull Creek on April 26, 2005.

Jon Adkins (1977- ) pitched for the 2005 World Series Championship team, the Chicago White Sox. He later pitched for the San Diego Padres and the New York Mets. He was born in Huntington.

Tim Agee, an actor in movies and commercials, played football at WVU in early 80's.

Col. Ralph D. Albertazzie served as pilot of Air Force One during the Nixon administration.

Althea Todd Alderson, a writer of short stories and poetry. Her best known poem, "The Spirit of Saint Louis," was published in a Doubleday and Doran anthology in the 1930s. She was born in Malden.

John Alderson fought Mike Tyson early in Tyson's career, on July 11, 1985. The fight was scheduled for six rounds, but the doctor stopped it between the second and third rounds. Thus Tyson won with a TKO in the second round. Alderson is from the Upper Kanawha Valley and fought for the Marmet Boxing Club as an amateur.

Robert Alexander played for the Los Angeles Rams and WVU. He was Parade Magazine's High School Player of the Year as a senior. He is from South Charleston.

Sara Alexander (c. 1839-1926) was an actress who appeared in several silent films from 1916 to 1919. She was born in Wheeling.

James Edward Allen, Jr. (1911-1971) was appointed the U. S. Commissioner of Education by President Nixon in 1969. He resigned in June 1970 over the administration's policies on school desegregation and the Vietnam War. He was born in Elkins. He had previously been Commissioner of Education for New York State.

Walter Alston played baseball for Huntington in the Middle Atlantic League in 1936. He later managed the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers.

Arsenio Albert Alvarez (1902-1975) began training thoroughbred racehorses at the Wheeling Downs Racetrack around 1937. He was the first Spanish-Hispanic foreign national living in West Virginia to become a horse trainer. In 1942, he received his naturalization citizenship. In 1944, he permanently moved his family and racing operations to Jefferson County, to race horses at the Charles Town Racetrack. During the winter months of 1944 to 1952, he raced horses at the Oriental Park Racetrack in Havana, Cuba, where in 1947 he became the first trainer from West Virginia to win four consecutive, international races with the same horse within one month’s time.

Michael Ammar (1956- ) is a magician who appeared twice on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and ten times on the Merv Griffin Show. In 1999, Magic Magazine named Michael as one of the "100 Most Influential Magicians of the Century." On January 18, 2001, he performed at an inaugural ball in honor of President-Elect George W. Bush. Ammar was born in Logan. His website is here.

John Amos (1939- ), the actor, played for the Wheeling Ironmen professional football team in the late 1950s. He also played for numerous other football teams before becoming an actor.

Ret. Gen. Earl E. Anderson (1919- ) was named a member of the American Bar Association Board of Governors in 2001. He was formerly the assistant commandant of the U. S. Marine Corps. At the time of his appointment to four-star rank, he was the youngest active-duty Marine and first aviator promoted to that rank. Following his retirement from the military, Anderson served several years with the State Department and United Nations. He was born in Morgantown and graduated from Morgantown High School and WVU.

George H. Anderson (1852-1921) was a pioneer in the oil business in New York State and Canada and later in northern West Virginia. He is credited with creating several innovative devices used in drilling for oil, including a new type of sand pump, for which he received a patent in 1914. He sold the rights for the pump to a New York syndicate for $30,000. He is said to have been a boyhood friend of Thomas Edison. Anderson was living in Williamstown, West Virginia, at the time of his death.

Lea Anderson became the first woman elected as president of the West Virginia University (WVU) student body in 1975.

David Anthony (1930-1986) wrote the novel which was made into the 1974 movie The Midnight Man. He was born William Dale Smith in Weirton.

Tony Anthony (1937- ) was the producer of the movies Wild Orchid and Treasure of Four Crowns. He also acted in several films including A Stranger in Town (1967) and Blindman (1972). He was born in Clarksburg.

Allen Appel has written three books published by Doubleday, Time After Time, Twice Upon A Time, and Till the End of Time. He is from Parkersburg and graduated from WVU in the '60's.

Jodi Applegate joined NBC News in 1996 as co-anchor of Weekend Today. In January 1999 she was named host of NBC's Later Today. In 2001 she was employed by WFXT in Boston. "I enjoyed NBC, but I had been getting up at 3 a.m. for years and was ready for a change," she said. In 2006 she was a co-anchor of Good Day New York on WNYW-TV, the Fox affiliate in New York. Applegate was born in Wheeling, but grew up in Pittsburgh.

Jane S. Armitage is the Chair of the Theater and Dance Program and Artistic Director at Oberlin College in Ohio. She has served as director of training programs at Riverside Shakespeare Company in New York and has taught at Boston University in both the music and theater departments. She has taught at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York, the National Shakespeare Conservatory, served as register and Provost for the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco and has remained active with the American College Theater Festival. She graduated from Charleston High School in 1955 and Morris Harvey College in 1959. More information and a photo are available here.

Charlie Arnett. After performing on the CBS radio shows Renfro Valley Folks and Shady Valley Folks and on WWVA in Wheeling, Daisy Mae and Old Brother Charlie moved to Tampa and performed daily on WDAE during the late 1940s, amassing quite an audience. They moved to Charlotte for a short while in the early 1950s, and then returned to Tampa and continued with daily radio shows on WHBO and a weekly show on WSUN-TV. They also performed on records. Charles Erwin Arnett was born in 1913 in Chester, W. Va. When he was three years old, the family moved to Fairmont. He wrote in one of his booklets that he stayed in Fairmont until he was 17, talking of the hills and valleys, the coal mines and factories in that area. Charlie played a variety of instruments including the piano and ogran and was also a lawyer.

Big Jon Arthur (real name: Jonathan Goerss), host of two ABC radio children's shows Big Jon and Sparkie and No School Today. The latter show was heard by 12 million listeners weekly on 275 stations in 1950. Goerss was from Pittsburgh, but lived in Beckley and worked at WJLS there early in his broadcasting career. He died in 1982.

Eugene Aserinsky discovered rapid eye movement sleep in 1952. The existence of REM sleep showed that the brain was in an active state during sleep, rather than a resting state. Aserinsky was later head of the physiology and pharmacology department at Marshall University. He died at age 77 in 1998 in an automobile accident.

Dave Augustine (1949- ), an outfielder for the Pirates from 1973 to 1974, was born in Follansbee.

Karen Austin, actress, played Carrie Welby on the TV series The Quest (1982) and played court clerk Lana Wagner on the TV series Night Court (1984). She has also appeared in over 25 films. She was born in Welch.

Hugh Aynesworth co-wrote Ted Bundy: Conversations With A Killer. He has fifty years experience as a reporter, writer, editor, and publisher and currently is Southwest bureau chief for the Washington Times. Aynesworth was the Dallas-Houston correspondent for Newsweek following the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963. He was in Dealey Plaza when Kennedy was killed. Aynesworth grew up in Nutter Fort, W. Va., and graduated from Roosevelt-Wilson High School in 1949.

Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe (1904-1996), the first president of the Republic of Nigeria, finished high school and began his college education at Storer College in Harper's Ferry. Azikiwe, popularly known as "Zik," was the father of modern Nigerian nationalism and chief architect of the country's independence.


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