Famous West Virginians (Z)

Last revision: Sept. 17, 2017.

Fred Zain was a West Virginia State Police forensics expert from 1979 until 1989 and later the chief of physical evidence for the medical examiner in Bexar County, Texas. He attracted national attention after an investigation of his work ordered by the W. Va. Supreme Court concluded Zain may have lied or fabricated evidence in dozens of rape and murder cases. Zain died on Dec. 2, 2002, at age 52.

Ebenezer Zane (1747-1812) founded the Ohio River settlement of Zanesburg, now Wheeling. During the Revolutionary War, Zane successfully defended Fort Henry at Wheeling from British and Indian attacks in 1777 and 1782. He was a delegate to Virginia’s constitutional convention (1788). In 1796, Congress accepted Zane’s offer to build a road from Wheeling to Limestone (now Maysville), Ky., in exchange for three mile-square lots along the route. This road became known as Zane’s Trace, and within four years the present-day Ohio cities of Zanesville and Lancaster were laid out on Zane’s lots. He was born near present-day Moorefield.

David A. Zegeer was confirmed as Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health on November 18, 1983, and served in that capacity under two different Secretaries of Labor until he retired on January 16, 1987, to return to private consulting. During his tenure at MSHA, the number of mining fatalities in the U. S. decreased significantly. The David A. Zegeer Coal and Railroad Museum was established at Jenkins, Kentucky. Zegeer was born in Charleston and educated at West Virginia University.

Amos Zereoue, who plays for the Pittsburgh Steelers, is a former WVU standout. He came to the U. S. from the Ivory Coast with his father. He played high school football in New York state.

Marcia Jo Koenigsberg Zerivitz (1939- ) is Founding Executive Director and Chief Curator of the Jewish Museum of Florida on Miami Beach. Beginning in 1985, Marcia traveled more than 150,000 miles around Florida to research and retrieve the state’s unknown Jewish history. She created a collection and a storyline of Florida’s unknown Jewish history and developed the MOSAIC exhibit that traveled to thirteen cities from 1990-1994. Under her direction, this project evolved into a permanent Jewish museum on South Beach. Marcia guided the two-year restoration of an abandoned historic Art Deco building that served as an Orthodox synagogue for fifty years and opened the Jewish Museum of Florida in 1995. Marcia was born and raised in West Virginia. She graduated from Charleston High School in 1957 and WVU in 1961.

Bob Zide, who operated Zide’s Sport Shop in Marietta, held the 1983 patent on a type of shock absorbing mount for football helmets that protects wearers from severe shocks and prevents severe deformation of the helmet shell. He was active behind the scenes in helping promote area athletic programs, including the Marietta Bantam Baseball League, and he founded the Mid-Ohio Valley Sports Hall of Fame. Zide lived in Williamstown, W. Va. He died in 2003 at age 68.

Guy Zinn (1887-1949) played outfield for five years in the 1910s for three major league teams, the New York Yankees, the Boston Braves, and the Baltimore Terrapins of the Federal League. Zinn was born in Hollbook, W. Va. His baseball career began in 1909 at the Grafton club of the the Pennsylvania-West Virginia League. The following year he played in Memphis, Macon, and Toledo. In 1911 he started the season for Altoona, in the Tri-State League, but in September received a major league offer. He played his first major league game on Sept. 11, 1911, for the New York Highlanders (later the Yankees). Zinn was born in Hollbrook, West Virginia, and died in Clarksburg. He was one of the first Jewish players in the major leagues.

John Zontini of Sherman ran for 2,135 yards on just 79 carries at Sherman High School in 1929.


Clark Gable. According to Nitro - The WWI Boom Town by William D. Wintz, Gable "came to Nitro when he was 17 years old soon after graduating from high school in Cadiz, Ohio. He hired in as a laborer and spent most of his time either digging ditches or pushing wheelbarrows." Wintz also writes, "Gable said he had a girlfriend while at Nitro who left before he did, returning to her home in Welch. He recalled that he went to see her one weekend and well remembered the hard two-day, round-trip train ride it took to spend only a few hours with her." Wintz says he came across this information in a newspaper article. However a biography of Gable says he dropped out of school at age 15 and moved to Akron. Other biographies of Gable do not support Wintz’s claim.

Marry Harris "Mother" Jones, although not a West Virginian, had ties to the state. In her day she was labeled "the most dangerous woman in America" by the politicians. She became involved in the American labor movement during the 1870s and organized or attended every major U. S. labor strike from the 1870s until 1924. She was sent into West Virginia for the first time in 1897 to organize miners, and delivered speeches in Monongah and Flemington. In 1902, she campaigned to unionize 7,000 miners in the Kanawha Valley. She came to national attention in 1912-13, during the Paint Creek-Cabin Creek strike in West Virginia. This strike created a lot of publicity because of the frequent violence. On September 21, 1912, she led a march of miners' children through the streets of Charleston. On Feb. 12, 1913, she led a protest of conditions in the West Virginia mines and was arrested. On May 8, 1913, newly-elected Governor Hatfield released her from jail. In 1920, the UMW moved its unionization campaign from Logan to Mingo county and Mother Jones delivered a speech of support. She was born in Ireland, went to school in Canada, but spent the majority of her 100 years in the United States. Her grave is in the Union Miners Cemetery at Mount Olive, Illinois.

Although Jack Dempsey was not a West Virginian (he was born in Manassa, Colorado), he did have ties to West Virginia. A reader of this page, Al Sheppard, writes, "My grandmother Hulda Dempsey (Mingo County) was Jack’s first cousin. Many of the Dempsey’s still reside in the area. Jack’s mother and dad were from Mingo County. Also Jack was a frequent visitor to Mingo County. The Dempsey’s first came to Mingo County after arriving from Ireland." Jack Dempsey (real name William Harrison Dempsey) was the son of Hyrum Dempsey and Mary C. (Smoot) who were natives of West Virginia, according to Jack Dempsey, the Idol of Fistian, by Nat Fleischer. According to Dempsey’s 1977 autobiography, his father was the nephew of "Devil" Anse Hatfield.

The members of the band Sleeping Giants, who have appeared on Late Night with Conan O'Brien, are from Wheeling. They won the 1997 National College Band Search.

Members of the band Chum, which is signed to Century Media Records, are natives of Huntington.

Members of the band Clutch, who recently released The Elephant Riders on Columbia records, are originally from Maryland, but now reside in Harpers Ferry.

Nancy Hanks, the mother of Abraham Lincoln, may have been born in what is now West Virginia. Little is known about her life, but it seems that most historians believe it is more likely she was born in what is now Virginia. In 1967 Governor Smith researched this issue but the results were inconclusive. It is claimed that she was born on the Doll farm on Mike’s Run, near Keyser. A monument to her is located in Mineral County about 3 miles south of Antioch.

Although George Stephanopoulos, former senior aide to President Clinton and current political commentator for ABC TV, is not from West Virginia, he has family ties to the state. His aunt and uncle, Kal and Spyros Stanley, are Charleston residents. (Kal is the sister of Stephanopoulos' mother.)

John Henry, the steel-driving champion in American folklore, is considered a legendary figure. The legend is said to come from Talcott in Summers County, or perhaps from Alabama.

Thanks to the following who have suggested names or otherwise improved this Web site: Becky Abel, Dusty Amtower, Ty Andlinger, Sue Anspach, Dale Arnett, Janet Ashworth, Denny Avers, Leslie Bagyi, Billy Bailey, Tim Baker, Jason Baldwin, Stephanie Blessing, Doug Bokosky, Mike Bragg, Jennifer Braun, Harold Brooks, Brenda Brown, Melanie Brown, Shannon Brown, Nancy Burkhammer, MaryWade Burnside, Danny Campbell, Jeff Campbell, Ernie Cart, Todd Carte, Barbara Cassel, Gregg Cave, Rick Chaffin, Rob Chase, Victoria Cochran, Dennis Cole III, David H. Corcoran, Sr., Michael Corley, Skip Cornett, David Crawford, Lloyd Creech, Jack Crouse, Lois Cruz, Rob Day, Patrick Daugherty, Jerry Davis, Tony Wayne Davis, Andrea Demasi, Patricia Dickinson, Hugh Dilorio, Bob Dorado, Tom Dotson, Kelli Doyle, Jason Dunigan, Gaylen Duskey, Steve Ferendo, Darrell Fiest, Karl Ford, Ann Fretwell, Kay Fricke, Mary Rodd Furbee, Mike Furbee, Sue Hannabass Furlong, Jim Gafken, Sharon Gallery, Brent Gamble, Cecil Gardner, Sharon Gates, Jim Glover, Jennifer Goddard, Miles Goosens, Robert J. Gould, Bob Gregory, Judy Griffy, Peter Groen, Chad Groome, Terry Gruber, Terry Hamilton, Rita A. Hanna, Lynn R. Hartz, Kim Hauldren, Daryl Hayes, Pamela Haynes, William Kim Hensley, Herman Hensley, Jonathan Herdman, Barbara Higginbotham, Otmer Horn, Larry Hurley, Brian Jackson, Scott Jarrell, Teresa Jarvis, Evan Jones, Chrissy Juergens, Dee King, Neil King, Okey L. King, Chris Kittinger, Phil Lafferty, Judy Lawhon, Steve Lenhardt, Jon D. Levenson, Scot Long, Elizabeth Lovett, Frank Lovinski, Rev. Dwight K. Lowther, Zora Mallory, Charlie Massey, Karen McGraw, Fred Meade, Teresa Meade, Mark Meadows, Bill Mencarow, John Messinger, Timothy C. Miller, James Moore, Phyllis Wilson Moore, Terry Moore, Daniel Murphy, Sally Elaine Myers, Lynn Nardo, Don Nelson, William E. Newbrough, Marie Nichols, Ryan Noll, William Norton, Wes Nugent, Tony O’Leary, Jim Owston, James K. Pack, Darren Parks, Kristopher Parrish, Rebecca W. Parrish, Jeff Pelurie, Kent C. Pigman, Jimmy Plear, Nancy H. Powell, Fred-Rock Priester, Chad N. Proudfoot, Wynne Proudfoot, Dr. Matthew Quinn, Richard Ramella, Scott Reppert, Don Reynolds, Alice Rhinehart, Ronald Rhodes, Melanie Pierson Rife, Cindy (Baumgardner) Robinson, George Rollins, Tim Sayre, Ron Scaggs, Randall Scarberry, Terry Shorr, Jack See, Linda (McIntyre) Seger, John Sellards, Andrea Semenie, Frank Serwatka, Rob Shaw, Al Sheppard, Jim Simon, Anita T. Simpson, Jay Smith, Sam Smith, Charlie Sorsby, Angela Sosnowski, Billy Spinks, Steve Stanley, Mary Starr, Dan Stout, LuAnn Sturms, Les Summerfield, Don Surber, Mark Swiger, Daniel Tassey, Richard A. Taylor, Sherman Thomas, Keith Thompson, Victor Tulley, Matt Turner, Randy Wade, Matt Waskey, Dave Watson, Bob Weaver, Gary Webster, Barbara Weese, Jim Wells, Phil Wendel, Rocky Whittington, Kelly Wildridge Whyte, David Ray Williams, Charlotte Wilmerton, Gary Young, and Troy D. Young.

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