Famous West Virginians (P)

Last revision: Mar. 17, 2013

Patty Painter was the model used by CBS to demonstrate its color television system to the FCC in 1946. The network transmitted a color television picture from the Chrysler Building to a receiver in a hotel 40 miles away. FCC Chairman Charles Denny spoke to Painter by phone and watched the 19-year-old on a color television receiver.

Brad Paisley (1972- ) recorded "He Didn't Have To Be," which was number one on the Billboard country chart in December 1999. His first country single was "Who Needs Pictures," from an album of the same name. He was born in Glen Dale, where his father is chief of the fire department and also works for the State of West Virginia.

Lou Palmer (1932-2008) was a reporter and anchor for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network for more than 30 years. He was the network’s chief announcer in 1988 and 1989. He was born Louis A. Perunko Jr. in Wheeling. More information is here.

Breece D'J Pancake (1952-1979) was a short story writer. When The Atlantic accepted the short story "Trilobites," a typographical error changed his middle initial to "D'J", and he chose to use the designation from then on. After his death by suicide at age 26, the collection of his stories was published to wide acclaim as The Stories of Breece D'J Pancake. He was born in Milton.

Don Panoz, an entrepreneur and owner of various motorsport ventures, attended Greenbrier Military Academy. His Wikipedia entry is here.

Kimberly Parrish Kimberly Parrish was a program host on the cable shopping network QVC from 1996 through 2004. In 2005, she launched her own women’s fashion clothing line, "Fashion Instinct," featured on cable shopping network HSN and the Internet. She was Miss West Virginia in 1992. She is from Parkersburg and earlier worked in radio and TV there.

Lea Ann Parsley (1968- ) is a 2002 Winter Olympic silver medalist in the women’s skeleton event. She was honored by being one of the eight Olympians chosen to carry the World Trade Center flag into Rice-Eccles Stadium during the opening ceremonies of the 2002 Winter Olympic Games. Parsley was born in Logan.

Patsy Lee Parsons (1931- ) was a child actress who appeared in several movies between 1937 and 1942. She was born in Parkersburg.

Russ Parsons coached Stonewall Jackson High School of Charleston to eight straight track titles from 1948 to 1955. He also had an outstanding record in coaching football and basketball.

Squire Parsons became the baritone singer for the Kingsmen Quartet in 1975. He has written numerous gospel songs including Sweet Beulah Land, which in 1981 was voted Favorite Song of the Year by the Singing News. In 1988 Parsons was named Favorite Southern Gospel Male Singer by the Singing News. He was born near Newton in Roane County. His mother still lives on the family farm. Parsons earned a B. S. degree in Music from West Virginia Institute of Technology.

Lory Patrick (1938- ) is an actress who appeared in several episodes of the TV series Wagon Train. She played the receptionist in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (1967) and Sylvia Dempster in Surf Party (1964). She was born in Beckley.

Maj. Gen. Mason M. Patrick (1863-1942) became Chief of the Air Service in France during World War I. He was born in Lewisburg.

Mike Patrick is ESPN’s play-by-play voice for many of the network’s top events, including Sunday Night NFL. He began his broadcasting career in 1966 at WVSC Radio in Somerset, Pennsylvania. He later became Sports Director of WJXT-TV in Jacksonville, Florida, where he did play-by-play football and basketball broadcasts. He subsequently moved to WJLA-TV in Washington, D. C., and Mutual Radio. He is a native of Clarksburg.

Christi Paul, a weekend anchor for CNN Headline News, began her broadcast journalism career at WDTV in Clarksburg.

Michael K. Paxton (1953- ) is an artist whose work has been featured in many one-person and invitational group exhibitions across the country. His major commissions include a 4- by 16-foot mural for the 7th District Federal Reserve bank Vice President’s conference room in Chicago and a 72-foot mural that runs the total circumference of Jensen Metal Products corporate headquarters in Racine, Wisconsin. Paxton was born in Huntington and grew up in Logan, Raleigh, and Wayne counties. He graduated from Vinson H. S. in 1971. web site.

Johnny Paycheck (1941-2003), country singer and member of the Grand Ole Opry, was born in Greenfield, Ohio. In the 1990s he was said to be living in Craigsville and then near Oak Hill. His biggest hit was Take This Job and Shove It.

Christopher Harrison Payne (1848-1925) was a pioneer in black journalism, establishing three newspapers, the West Virginia Enterprise, The Pioneer, and the Mountain Eagle. In 1896 he was elected to the state legislature as a Republican delegate from Fayette county, the first black to serve in the West Virginia legislature. In 1903 President Theodore Roosevelt named him Consul General to the Danish West Indies. He was born in Monroe County. As a boy, Payne worked as a farmhand near Hinton and as a servant in the Confederate Army. [This page previously stated incorrectly that Payne was born a slave; he was not.]

John Barton Payne (1855-1935) served one year as Secretary of the Interior under President Woodrow Wilson before becoming Chairman of the American Red Cross from Oct. 1, 1921, until his death. He became one of the most prominent railroad lawyers in the Midwest and, as Director General of Railroads in 1918, Payne was instrumental in the government’s takeover of rail lines after the U.S. entered World War I. Payne was born in Pruntytown (then part of Virginia). He had served as mayor of Kingwood and as a circuit court judge in Tucker county before moving to Chicago at age 28. More on Payne is here.

Louise McNeill Pease (1911- ), West Virginia’s Poet Laureate, was named West Virginian of the Year in 1985. She was a professor at Fairmont State, and earlier taught at Concord College, Potomac State College, and WVU. Her best-known book of poetry is Gauley Mountain, published in 1939 with a foreword by Stephen Vincent Benet. She was born at Buckeye and began teaching in local one-room schools in 1930.

Dave Pedneau (1947-1990) was the author of bestselling crime novels D.O.A. and N.F.D. His background as reporter, columnist and magistrate court judge provided him materials. He has used the pseudonyms Marc Eliot and Lee Hawks.

Joe Pendry is the offensive coordinator of the Buffalo Bills. He has also coached in the NFL for the Cleveland Browns, Kansas City Chiefs, Chicago Bears, and Carolina Panthers, and was also the head coach of the Pittsburgh Maulers of the USFL. He is a native of Oceana and played college football for WVU.

Chad Pennington (1976- ) of the New York Jets was a quarterback for Marshall. He was a Heisman trophy finalist in 1999 and was MVP of the 2000 Senior Bowl.

Harry Walter Perkowski (1922- ) was a pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds from 1947-1954. He was traded to the Chicago Cubs in 1955. He is from Raleigh County and attended Trap Hill High School. He was born in Dante, Va.

Huey L. Perry wrote or edited several political books as well as Blaze Starr: My Life, as told to Huey Perry, which was made into the movie Blaze, starring Paul Newman. He is a long-time Huntington resident, and is said to be a native of Gilbert.

Charles Peters is editor-in-chief and founder of The Washington Monthly. He is also the author of Tilting at Windmills and How Washington Really Works. Peters was raised in Charleston and served in the House of Delegates for two years.

Lorraine Collett Petersen, the girl pictured on boxes of Sunmaid raisins, is said to have been from West Virginia, although another source indicates she was from Fresno. She was sent to San Francisco’s Panama-Pacific Exposition in 1915 to pass out raisin samples and was visited during a break at home in Fresno by a Sun-Maid executive. Having just curled her hair in preparation for a local Raisin Day parade, she was wearing her own red bonnet, rather than the blue one assigned for the Exposition. Taken by the red bonnet, the executive changed all the girls' bonnets and invited Petersen to pose for the famous company’s trademark. As a result, Ms. Petersen also appeared in the movie, Trail of the Lonesome Pine, did modeling, made appearances, and even had a doll made after her. She was also an avid trout angler. The Sunmaid Girl died at age 90 in March 1983.

Joseph Paul "Joey" Pettini (1955- ) played shortstop for the San Francisco Giants. He was born in Wheeling and is a graduate of Brooke High School.

Phil Pfister, a world renowned Strong Man, has appeared in International Strong Man contests abroad which have been aired on ESPN. In 2005 he was ranked #1 in America and #4 in the world. He works as an EMT and firefighter. Pfister is from Charleston. More information is here and here.

Jayne Anne Philips (1952- ), author of short stories. She is the recipient of a Fels Award, two Pushcart Prizes, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and St. Lawrence Award for Fiction. She was born in West Virginia.

Ernie Phillips, award-winning tenor with the Kingsmen Quartet of Asheville, N. C., was born near Cool Ridge in Raleigh County.

Gene Montague Phillips (1926- ) in 1973 founded the Ancient Astronaut Society, an organization whose objectives are to search for evidence to determine whether Earth was visited in the remote past by intelligent beings from outer space, and to determine whether a highly-developed, technological civilization existed on Earth before recorded history. He is the editor of the society’s publication Ancient Skies. He lives in Illinois but was born in Beaver and graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School in Beckley in 1942. In 2011 he was living in St. Augustine, Florida.

Jayne Anne Phillips is an award winning novelist born and raised in Buckhannon. Her work has been published in twelve different languages. She has taught at Harvard, Boston University, Williams College and is currently Writer In Residence at Brandeis University.

William Pierce (1933-2002), the white supremacist leader and author of the novel The Turner Diaries (1978), died at his compound at Mill Point, near Hillsboro, West Virginia, in 2002. The Turner Diaries is believed to have inspired Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. Pierce was born in Atlanta.

Francis Harrison Pierpont (1814-1899) is known as the father of West Virginia. In 1861, when Virginia seceded from the Union, Pierpont organized Unionists in the western part of the state. The Wheeling Convention chose him to head the provisional government there. From 1863 to 1865 he was governor of the “restored state of Virginia” and was governor of Virginia from 1865 to 1868. He was born near Morgantown and grew up in Marion County, in what is now West Virginia. His wife, Julia Augusta Robertson Pierpont, is credited with being an originator of Decoration Day, which was renamed Memorial Day in 1882. They are buried in Fairmont’s Woodlawn Cemetery Historic District, a short distance from their home site.

Maceo Pinkard (1897-1962) co-wrote Sweet Georgia Brown and was the composer of other songs. He was born in Bluefield and graduated from the Bluefield Colored Institute in 1914.

Kevin Pittsnogle (1984- ) played basketball for the Boston Celtics. He was born in Martinsburg. More information is here.

Paul Edward Popovich (1940- ), an infielder for the Cubs, Dodgers, and Pirates from 1964 to 1975, was born in Flemington.

Melville Davisson Post (1871-1930), lawyer and detective-story writer. He is the author of The Strange Schemes of Randolph Mason (1896), The Man of Last Resort (1897), Uncle Abner: Master of Mysteries (1918), The Mystery at the Blue Villa (1919), and The Man Hunters (1926). He was born at Romines Mills, near Clarksburg. [Another source gives 1869 as his birth year.]

Tom Poston (1927-2007), best known as George, the handyman on Newhart, was a chemistry major at Bethany College when World War II broke out and he ended his studies there. He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate as a Doctor of Letters, September 13, 1990, by Bethany in honor of his lifetime education, accomplishments and contributions He occasionally attended alumni functions. He was born in Columbus, and spent his early years in Ohio, Maryland, and Washington, D. C. More information is at www.imdb.com/name/nm0692976/.

John "Boog" Powell (1941- ) started his baseball career with the Bluefield Orioles. He was born in Lakeland, Fla.

E. J. Powers, co-lead singer of the group Will to Power, attended West Virginia University and now resides in southern West Virginia. The late-80s group had the hit Baby, I Love Your Way/Free Bird (medley). Female lead singer Suzy Carr is also a West Virginia native and is a graduate of Princeton High School.

Dr. Linda S. Powers is Director of the National Center for the Design of Molecular Function, Professor of Electrical Engineering, Professor of Biological Engineering, and Adjunct Professor of Physics at Utah State University. After completing her M.A. in Physics and Ph.D. in Biophysics at Harvard University, she became a member of the technical staff at AT&T Bell Laboratories. In 1988, she joined the Utah State University faculty and started the NCDMF which later became an NIH Research Resource. She has a broad scope of expertise from biochemistry to electrical/computer engineering, and has considerable experience in hemoprotein catalysis, structural biology, and the design and construction of optical and X-ray instrumentation. She was a pioneer the use of x-ray absorption spectroscopy for the investigation of biological problems. She has authored more than 100 technical publications in refereed journals and holds several patents. Linda Sue Powers is a 1966 graduate of Woodrow Wilson High School in Beckley. See here and here.

Eugenia Price (1916-1996) is a noted writer in two separate genres --historical novels and Christian books. She wrote the best-selling historical romance novels Lighthouse, New Moon Rising, and The Beloved Invader. She was born in Charleston and graduated from Charleston High School but lived most of her adult life in Georgia.

James Price, fiddler, vocalist, and comedian, became a member of the bluegrass band Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys in 1995. He is from Prenter, W. Va., and attended Sherman High School.

Roger Price, comedian who guested on Dobie Gillis and Get Smart.

Tom Pridemore, who played college football at WVU, was a ninth-round draft pick in 1978 and played many seasons as a defensive back for the Atlanta Falcons. He is from Ansted.

Byrd Prillerman (1859-1929) was the co-founder of the West Virginia Colored Institute, which later became West Virginia State College and West Virginia State University. He began his teaching career in Sissonville in 1879 and later taught in Charleston public schools. Prillerman was born a slave in Franklin County, Virginia, the youngest of seventeen children. His family moved into West Virginia in 1868.

Frank Pritt founded Attachmate Corporation in 1982. He was listed on Forbes' list of 400 richest Americans in October 1995. On May 17th, 2006, Pritt listed his estate in Orange County for sale with a price of $75,000,000. His hometown is Charleston.

Rachel Proctor is a country singer whose debut album is Days Like This (2004). She is a native of Charleston.

George Edward "Skip" Prosser (1950- ), one of college basketball’s winningest active coaches, began his coaching career at Linsly Institute in Wheeling. He was born in Pittsburgh.

Bob Pruett (1943- ) was the head football coach at Marshall University from 1996 until 2004. He coached the Thundering Herd to a 94-23 record, including five bowl victories and the 1996 Division I-AA national championship. Pruett was born in Beckley. He graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School in Beckley in 1961.

Jedediah Purdy is the author of For Common Things: Irony, Trust, and Commitment in America Today, published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1999. He is a native of Chloe in Calhoun County.

Lovett Purnell (1972- ) of the New England Patriots played college football for WVU. He was born in Seaford, Del.

Milan Puskar is a Morgantown entrepreneur and philanthropist. He is the founder and chairman of Mylan Laboratories Inc., one of the premier manufacturers of prescription generic drugs in the world. In recognition of his continued generosity to West Virginia University athletics, academic programs, and scholarships, WVU’s football stadium was renamed Milan Puskar Stadium, home of Mountaineer Field.

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