Famous West Virginians (W)

Last revision: June 20, 2014


Alexander L. Wade (1832-1904), as Superintendent of Schools in Monongalia County, in 1874 worked out the graded school plan for country schools now used throughout the U. S. Wade was born in Indiana. His family moved to Monongalia county when he was five.

Fulton Walker played for the Miami Dolphins and held the Super Bowl kick-off return record until 1997. He is from Martinsburg and played for WVU.

Chris Wallace joined the NBA Memphis Grizzlies in 2007 as team president. Previously, he was General Manager of the Boston Celtics and Director of Player Personnel for the Miami Heat. Wallace is a native of Buckhannon.

George Wallace (1917- ), an actor, has appeared in numerous made-for-TV movies. He was born in New York, but moved at age 13 to McMechen, W. Va., where he worked in the mines. He sometimes bills himself George D. Wallace, to avoid confusion with comic George Wallace.

Jeff Wallace (1976- ), a relief pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates, was born in Wheeling.

Jeannette Walls, MSNBC.com's national gossip columnist, is from Welch and is a 1978 graduate of Welch High School.

Clyde Ware (1932- ) is a writer and director. Among other movies, he directed the 1971 movie No Drums, No Bugles, based on a West Virginia legend about a conscientious objector during the Civil War (played by Martin Sheen) who spends three years in a cave rather than fight. He has written numerous TV scripts and two novels. He is a native of West Union.

Jack Warhop (1884-1960) was a pitcher for the New York Highlanders from 1908 to 1915. (The team name was changed to the New York Yankees in 1913.) On May 16, 1915, Babe Ruth hit his first home run of his career; the home run pitch was thrown by Warhop. Warhop was born in Hinton. More on Warhop is available here.

Curt Warner is a former running back for the Seattle Seahawks. He played college football at Penn State. Warner is from Pineville and played for Pineville High School.

Lonnie Warwick was a linebacker for the Minnesota Vikings. He is from Mount Hope.

Booker T. Washington (1856-1915), an educator who was appointed organizer and principal of what is now Tuskegee University in 1881. Washington made the institution into a major center for industrial and agricultural training and in the process became a well-known public speaker. He was born on a plantation in Franklin Co., Va., the son of a slave. Following the Civil War, his family moved to Malden, W. Va., where he worked in a salt furnace and in coal mines. In his autobiography Up From Slavery, Washington wrote:

At that time salt-mining was the great industry in that part of West Virginia, and the little town of Malden was right in the midst of the salt-furnaces. My stepfather had already secured a job at a salt-furnace and he had also secured a little cabin for us to live in. Our new house was no better than the one we had left on the old plantation in Virginia. In fact, in one respect it was worse. Notwithstanding the poor condition of our plantation cabin, we were at all times sure of pure air. Our new home was in the midst of a cluster of cabins crowded closely together, and as there were no sanitary regulations, the filth about the cabins was often intolerable. Some of our neighbours were coloured people, and some were the poorest and most ignorant and degraded white people. It was a motley mixture. Drinking, gambling, quarrels, fights, and shockingly immoral practices were frequent. All who lived in the little town were in one way or another connected with the salt business. Though I was a mere child, my stepfather put me and my brother at work in one of the furnaces. Often I began work as early as four o'clock in the morning.
After working in the salt furnace and coal mines, Washington was hired to work as a servant for Mrs. Viola Ruffner, the wife of Gen. Lewis Ruffner, the owner of the salt furnace and coal mines.

Col. Charles Washington, youngest brother of the first president, was one of the early settlers in what was to become West Virginia. He provided the 80 acres of land on which Charles Town in Berkeley county (now Jefferson county) was originally laid out. In October 1786, Charles Town was officially chartered by the Virginia General Assembly.

John C. Waugh is the author of the prize-winning book The Class of 1846: From West Point to Appomattox - Stonewall Jackson, George McClellan and Their Brothers and the author of Reelecting Lincoln: The Battle for the 1864 Presidency. Waugh had formerly served as a bureau chief for the Christian Science Monitor and an aide to Nelson Rockefeller; he began his career as a freelance writer while living in Elkins, where he began The Class of 1846. He is from Clarksburg.

John F. Weakland (died, 1995, age 76) was a senior research fellow at the Mental Research Institute in Palo Alto, California, where he helped originate the field of family therapy and created elegantly simple strategies for solving problems of human behavior. His New York Times obituary said, “In his work at the institute, Mr. Weakland helped conceive and develop many of the avant-garde approaches and therapies that have kept the institute on the cutting edge, even as the earlier concepts have become standards in modern therapy.” A brilliant student, he entered Cornell University at the age of 16. He was a native of Charleston.

Teddy Weatherford (1903-1945), a pianist, was a leading exponent of "Chicago-style" jazz in the 1920s. He was from Bluefield.

Patty Weaver (1955- ) has played the role of Gina Roma Radison in The Young and the Restless and earlier played the role of Trish Clayton Banning in Days of Our Lives. She was born in Clarksburg.

Harold Tucker Webster (1885-1952), a cartoonist, was the creator of Casper Milquetoast. He was born in Parkersburg, but his family moved to Tomahawk, Wisconsin, while he was still a young boy.

Kim Webster, an actress in NBC’s The West Wing, graduated from WVU in 1994. She grew up in New Jersey.

Georgeann Wells, while playing for West Virginia University, became the first woman to dunk a basketball in an NCAA game on December 21, 1984. She is 6 feet, 7 inches tall, and lives in Columbus, Ohio.


Jerry West

Jerome Alan "Jerry" West (1938- ) was selected in 1996 as one of the 50 greatest NBA basketball players ever. He was an All-American at WVU for two years before playing for the Los Angeles Lakers. When he retired as an active player, West ranked third in the NBA in regular-season scoring. He later coached the Lakers and then became general manager of the team, retiring in 2000. In 2002, citing boredom and a chance to build another winning team, West joined the Memphis Grizzlies as president of basketball operations. West was a member of the 1960 USA Olympic Basketball team, which won the gold medal. In August 2000 West attended a ceremony naming a stretch of road which runs past the former WVU field house Jerry West Boulevard. "I think it's pretty cool, myself," West said. "It really is an honor. This state's been very very meaningful for me. I come back here every year. I love the people here. I almost wish my career hadn't taken me to Los Angeles because this is a place I truly love." Although he has been called "Zeke from Cabin Creek" (a name he does not like), Jerry West actually was born and grew up in Chelyan. He graduated from East Bank High School in 1956.

Lewis Wetzel (1764 or 1763-1808) was a frontiersman and Indian hunter. Novelist Zane Grey expressed the hope that his treatment of Wetzel "softens a little the ruthless name history accords him." Grey said that "the border needed Wetzel. The settlers would have needed many more years in which to make permanent homes had it not been for him. He was never a pioneer; but always a hunter of Indians." Wetzel County is named for him.

Larry Wheat (1876-1963) was a movie actor in the 1920s to 1940s. He was born in Wheeling.

Billy Edd Wheeler (1932- ) recorded the song Ode to the Little Brown Shack Out Back and wrote or co-wrote numerous country songs, including Coward of the County. He also wrote the outdoor musical dramas Hatfields and McCoys and Young Abe Lincoln. Wheeler was born in Whitesville and raised in nearby Highcoal.

Andrew "Jack" Whittaker Jr. won the record-setting Powerball lottery jackpot on Christmas Day 2002. He became an instant celebrity, appearing on numerous national television shows. Whittaker set up the Jack Whittaker Foundation, a charitable organization to help needy applicants, primarily West Virginians. Subsequent news reports indicated that he had lost millions of dollars while gambling and was robbed at a Cross Lanes strip club. He is from St. Albans and was born at Jumping Branch.

Anne White, tennis star, played for John Adams Junior High and George Washington High School in Charleston in the 1970's. Her fashion bravado got her into trouble at Wimbledon when she wore a pants ensemble.

Israel Charles White (1848-1927) was a geologist who developed new techniques for exploitation of gas and oil resources. He was born in Monongalia County and educated at West Virginia University.

Jesco White gained nationwide cult status after the public television documentary "Dancing Outlaw" that chronicled his life as a poor Appalachian Elvis impersonator, including his tap dancing and his penchant for sniffing gasoline and glue. White lived in a trailer when the film was shot. He later moved into a two-story home near Peytona in Boone County which was destroyed by fire in August 1997. Lost in the fire was his collection of Elvis memorabilia, including his collection of Elvis costumes which he used in his act. White has appeared on an episode of Roseanne.

Steve Whiteman, vocalist and harmonica player for the rock band KIX, is from Piedmont, W. Va.

Chan Whitt Jr. (1973-1994), boy wonder of professional pool. He could beat most local players even at the age of five when he had to climb upon the table and use a "bridge." His accomplishments were on a par with the touring professionals for his age and beyond. His father, Chan Sr., groomed two of his children, Chann Jr. and his oldest sister Priscilla, to be pool champions. Priscilla won several titles before dropping out of competition. Chan Sr. was little Chan's manager and arranged most of his guest appearances. He was born and grew up in Caldwell, near Lewisburg. Little Chan's life was cut short by a tragic auto accident. Before his casket was closed, his favorite cue stick was placed inside.

Anthony Whittington (1984- ) was selected as the 61st player taken overall in the 2003 Major League Baseball draft. He was selected by the defending World Series champions, the Anaheim Angels. He is a lifelong resident of Buffalo and a 2003 graduate of Buffalo High School.

Tommy R. Wickline (1921- ) is a Pearl Harbor survivor who was aboard the U. S. S. Maryland on Dec. 7, 1941, during the Japanese attack. The new span between U. S. Route 60 East and Riverside Drive at the Special Metals Plant in Huntington was dedicated as the "T. R. Wickline Bridge" in his honor. Wickline lives in Huntington.

Jermaine Wiggins (1975- ), a tight end for the Carolina Panthers, was living in Beckley in 2004, when his team played in the Super Bowl. His wife Tellena is from Beckley. A native of Boston, Wiggins began his college career at Marshall, where he met his wife.

Norm Willey was a two-time all-pro defensive end for the Philadelphia Eagles, for whom he played from 1950 to 1958. He was one of the NFL's first great pass-rushers. He was credited with an unofficial 17 sacks in one game. He is a native of Hastings in Wetzel County and played basketball for Marshall, playing on the first Marshall University bowl team, in 1947.

Waitman Thomas Willey (1811-1900) was a U. S. Senator from Virginia and West Virginia. He was born in Monongalia County, Va., in what is now a part of Marion County, W. Va. He began a law practice in Morgantown (then in Virginia) after being admitted to the bar in 1833. He was appointed clerk of the county court of Monongalia County in 1841 and later clerk of the circuit superior court, and held both positions until 1852. He was a delegate to the Virginia constitutional convention in 1850 and 1851, and was elected as a Unionist to the U. S. Senate from Virginia to fill a vacancy and served from 1861 to 1863. He was a delegate to the State constitutional convention of West Virginia; upon the admission of West Virginia as a State into the Union, he was elected as a Unionist to the United States Senate. He served from 1863 to 1871. He again served as clerk of the county court of Monongalia County from 1882 to 1896. He died in Morgantown.

Chickie Williams (1919-2007), the "Girl With the Lullaby Voice" and member of husband Doc Williams' Border Riders since the 1940s, was a longtime vocalist on the WWVA Jamboree. Williams introduced Beyond the Sunset on the air in the 1940s. Her real name was Jesse W. Crupe. She was born in Bethany, W. Va.

Dana Williams (1963- ) was an outfielder for the Red Sox in 1989 and 1990. He was born in Weirton.

Deron Williams (1984- ), starting point guard for the Utah Jazz, was born in Parkersburg.

Doc Williams (1914-2011), a country music singer, was born in Cleveland as Andrew John Smik. Beginning in 1937 he and his band, the Border Riders, performed on a daily show WWVA in Wheeling, a 50,000-watt clear channel station which could be heard over much of the northeast and in Canada. Williams’ rendition of The Cat Came Back sold more than 1 million records on a Toronto record label. Williams considered Wheeling his home.

Hershel Woodrow "Woody" Williams of Quiet Dell received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroic actions in World War II. He continually attacked Japanese machine gun batteries on Iwo Jima in the Volcano Islands with a flamethrower on Feb. 23, 1945. A bridge in Barboursville is named in his honor. He lives in Ona in Cabell County.

Jason Williams (1975- ) plays for the Miami Heat and formerly played for the Memphis Grizzlies. He had played earlier at Marshall and Florida before being drafted by the Sacramento Kings. Williams is from Belle and attended DuPont High School, where was a teammate of Randy Moss.

J. P. Williams is chief executive and owner of the management-production company Parallel Entertainment, which has managed the careers of comedians Jeff Foxworthy, Bill Engvall, Larry the Cable Guy, and David Koechner. Williams was born in West Virginia.

Ron "Fritz" Williams (1944- ) was the first guard drafted (ninth player overall selected) in the 1968 NBA draft by the San Francisco Warriors. He was also selected in the 14th round of the NFL draft by the Dallas Cowboys, even though he didn't play football in college. Going the Cowboys' mini-camp, he was offered a guaranteed three-year contract, but turned the offer down and decided to play for the Warriors. Williams later played for the Milwaukee Bucks and the Los Angeles Lakers. He was born in Weirton. He was a member of the 1961-62 Weir High School team which had been undefeated until it faced Woodrow Wilson High School of Beckley for the state AAA championship. He also played basketball for WVU. More on Williams is here.

Nathaniael Willis started publication of western Virginia's first newspaper, The Potowmack Guardian and Berkeley Advertiser, in 1791. It was first published in Shepherdstown. Publication ceased in 1799 when he moved to Martinsburg and began publishing the Martinsburg Gazette.

Al Wilson, an all-star football player for Yale, lived at Sharples in Logan County.

Bill Wilson (1942-1993), who pitched for the Philadelphia Phillies from 1969 through 1973, attended Marshall University.

Lewis Robert "Hack" Wilson (1900-1948) hit 56 home runs and had 190 RBIs for the Cubs in 1930. His 56 home runs was the National League record until 1998 when it was surpassed by Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa; his 191 RBIs remains a major-league record. (The Office of the Commissioner of Major League Baseball ruled in 1999 that Wilson's correct RBI total in 1930 was 191, instead of the 190 that had been in the record books for decades.) Wilson was born in Ellwood City, Pa., and played for Martinsburg of the Blue Ridge League in 1921. He was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1979. According to Doug Huff's Sports in West Virginia, he lived in Martinsburg most of his life and is buried there.

Quincy Wilson (1981- ) was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons in 2004. He grew up in Weirton and played football for Weir High School and WVU. His father, Otis Wilson, was the starting linebacker on the Chicago Bears' 1985 Super Bowl championship team.

Tom Wilson (1931- ), cartoonist and creator of the comic strip Ziggy, was born in Grant Town in Marion County. His son, Tom Wilson II, has drawn the strip since 1987.

Wayne Wilson (1957- ) who played in the NFL, mostly for the New Orleans Saints, attended Shepherd College and in 2009 was living in Shepherdstown. He is a member of the Shepherd (College) University Hall of Fame. He was born in Maryland.

William Lyne Wilson (1843-1900) was the Postmaster General of the U. S. from 1895 to 1897. During that time (in 1896) he established Rural Free Delivery in the U. S. Wilson served in the confederate army during the Civil War, then taught school and practiced law. He was President of West Virginia University from 1882 to 1883, a member of Congress from West Virginia from 1883 to 1895, and co-author of the Wilson-Gorman Tariff Act of 1894. He was President of Washington and Lee University from 1897 to 1900. He was born in Middleway in Jefferson County (then in Virginia).

Becky Wilson-Kelly is the author/illustrator of Mother Grumpy's Dog Biscuits as well as the illustrator of The Old Woman in a Shoe, Playtime, and Mad Ann Bailey. The Hallmark Spoonful of Stars greeting cards are based on her watercolor sketches. She is from St. Albans and lives in Kansas City.

Terry Wimmer led a team of investigative reporters at the Orange County Register which won a Pulitzer prize in 1996 for uncovering a fertility clinic scandal. He is now on the faculty of WVU's journalism school. Wimmer is a native of Princeton.

Melvin Wine (1909-2003) was a nationally-known fiddler. He lived in Copen in Braxton County and was born in Braxton County.

John Seashoal Witcher (born about 1840) served in the Civil War as commander of the 3rd West Virginia Cavalry--USA, and attained the rank of Brevit Brig. General. After the war, he was a state legislator, served as West Virginia Secretary of State, and was elected to Congress. He also served as the U. S. Army's Paymaster. Witcher attended school in what is now Hamlin in Lincoln County. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Bill Withers (1938- ), singer and songwriter, whose first hit, Ain't No Sunshine, went to number three in 1971, won a Grammy for best R&B song, and was heard in the movie Notting Hill. His biggest hit was Lean on Me, which went to number one in 1972. He also recorded Use Me, which peaked at number two in 1972 and is on the soundtrack to American Beauty. The Gap used his song Lovely Day in its 1999 advertising campaign. Withers married Denice Nicholas, a star on ABC's TV series Room 222. He was born in Slab Fork, near Beckley. Withers dropped out of school after the ninth grade and spent nine years in the Navy, where he underwent speech therapy to overcome a stuttering problem. After his discharge, he delivered milk and worked for Ford Motor Co., IBM, and Lockheed. More on Bill Withers is available here.

John Wockenfuss (1949- ) was a catcher and utility player for Detroit Tigers in the 70's. He played for Philadelphia in 1984-85. He was born in Welch.

Deborah Wolfe, the wife of Cabell County Sheriff Kim Wolfe, was chosen Mrs. America in 1984.

Warner Wolfe, the famous sportscaster, got his first job in broadcasting at WEPM in Martinsburg, West Virginia.

Ron Wolfley (1962- ), a former fullback for the St. Louis/Phoenix Cardinals who now co-hosts a radio sports talk show in Phoenix, played football for WVU. His brother Dale also played football for WVU.

Sherilyn Wolter (1961- ) is an actress who has appeared on numerous TV shows. She played Hobie's teacher in several episodes of Baywatch. She was born in Clarksburg.

Jacob "Jake" Wood (1937- ) played baseball for Detroit and Cincinnati in the 1960s. According to one source, he was born in High Coal; however, this may be incorrect as the CNNSI website says he was born in Elizabeth, N. J.

J. T. Woodruff is the lead singer and founder of the band Hawthorne Heights. Their latest release debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 100 and they have have two videos reach the top 10 on MTV's Countdown. Woodruff graduated St. Marys High School in 1996 and attended Wheeling Jesuit before leaving to pursue a musical career.

Carter G. Woodson (1875-1950) is widely regarded as the leading writer on black history of his time. His founding of the American Association for the Study of Negro Life and History in 1915 has been called the start of the black history movement. Woodson was born in New Canton, Va. He followed his brother to West Virginia, working as a coal miner in Fayette County in the early 1890s. He was injured in a roof fall. At age 19, in 1895, he entered Douglass High School in Huntington. After graduating from Berea College he returned to Huntington to become a teacher and principal at Douglass High School. He later became the second black man to earn a Ph. D. from Harvard University. He was dean at West Virginia State College at Institute from 1920 to 1922. The best known of his 16 books is Negro in Our History (1922).

Henry Woodward (1891- ? ) was an actor who appeared in numerous silent films from 1917 to 1920. He was born in Charleston

Mark Workman (1930-1983) played basketball with the Milwaukee Hawks, the Philadelphia Warriors, and the Baltimore Bullets from 1952 to 1954. He was born in Logan, graduated from Charleston High School, and played basketball for WVU, where he set several scoring records.

Bobby Wright (1942- ), country music entertainer, was born in Charleston.

Steve Wrigley, a sportscaster for CNN Headline News, is a former sports anchor at WOAY-TV in Oak Hill.

Fred Wyant, a senior official in the NFL, is a former quarterback for West Virginia University. He is from Weston.

Nan Wynn (c. 1918-1972) appeared as a singer in several 1940s movies. She was born in Wheeling.

Charlotte Wynters (1899-1991) was an actress who appeared in numerous films in the 1930s and 1940s. She was born in Wheeling.


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