HISTORY OF WOODROW WILSON HIGH SCHOOL
C. G. Peregoy, Jerome Van Meter
Contributions to this page are welcome via e-mail. This page was last revised on June 19, 2021.
The Beckley Seminary School Company was incorporated on July 13, 1900, and in August 1900 the Beckley Seminary opened as a private, tuition-supported school. The principal was Professor Bernard Hendrick White, who had come to Beckley in 1900 from St. Albans, where his school was called the Fairview Academy. There were four teachers. According to Beckley USA the faculty consisted of William Woodson Trent (born, 1878), Natural Sciences; Matilda Ellen Ogden, Prep. Department; R. B. Summerfield, Shorthand and touchwriting; Paris I. Lilly, Commercial and Penmanship; and Adeline Bersot, Music Department. [Trent later became the State Superintendent of Schools.] A list of faculty members compiled by Lura Clay is: Miss Florence Blizzard and her brother, Homer Blizzard, who taught the third grade and coached the first uniformed baseball team, Miss Ollie Ogden, Paris I. Lilly, R. B. Summerfield, and the music teacher, Miss Adeline Bursot.
According to an account written by B. H. White, the Beckley Seminary originally enrolled 37 students in 1900, and the students were taught in rented rooms. However, shortly thereafter, a white frame structure with two stories and a bell tower was erected on Park Avenue where Institute Elementary School later stood. The Beckley Institute included a grade school and high school, and was the only high school in Raleigh County for 12 years. There were seven courses: preparatory, normal, commercial, shorthand and typewriting, music, elocution and physical culture, and academic. Enrollment stood at 94 in 1900, 215 in 1901, 298 in 1902, and 324 in 1903.
A photograph of a baseball team dated 1902 and labeled "First uniformed Beckley Seminary Team" appears in Beckley USA.
In 1905, Beckley Seminary’s first football squad was formed, according to Beckley USA, which reports it "began the town’s hot rivalry with Hinton, a yearly competition kept steaming ever since. The score of this particular game was, as indicated on the football: Beckley 20 and Hinton 0; almost breaking up in a fist fight at the end of eight minutes of play.”
A 1905-1906 report card for a student at Beckley Public School shows E. W. Scott, Principal, and teachers Miss Ollie Ogden, Miss Ethel Keyser, Miss Clara Sbanks, and Miss Gore (Mrs. George W. Williams).
In 1907 the school was sold to the Christian Board Mission of the Disciples of Christ, and the name was changed to the Beckley Institute.
According to an early account, on Aug 28, 1907, the Beaver Land Co. gave the Mission a grant of land for the hill where Woodrow Wilson High School later stood and the grove in front of WWHS. According to this account, Beckley Institute was at first the old frame building on the corner of First Avenue and Park Avenue. After a short time the Mission built a beautiful building of native stone on the site later occupied by Park Middle School.
Both Beckley Seminary and Beckley Institute were private schools, those attending paying a monthly tuition.
According to a school history, Beckley Institute opened in September 1907 with Miss Alma Evelyn Moore of Topeka, Kansas, as principal pro tem. In the late fall, she was replaced by Prof. E. W. McDiarmid, a professor of Latin at Bethany College. However, on Oct. 3, 1907, the Raleigh Register reported, "Chosen as the temporary principal who will act until the arrival of Principal E. W. McDiarmid, has been Prof. P. C. Button, principal of the mission school of the C. W. B. M., located at Morehead, Kentucky. Prof. Button was present and had charge of the opening exercises. As assistant, Prof. Button has Miss A. Evelyn Moore, who is acting temporarily as matron and business manager and who is proving herself quite efficient.” The article reported that nearly 100 students were enrolled on the opening day.
In 1909 the faculty was composed of Professor McDiarmid, Dr. Ritchie Ware, J. A. Sharp, J. J. Smith, Ethel McDiarmid, Josephine Hudson, Addie M. Lanier, Mrs. J. F. Mahoney, and Mrs. L. B. Pursley.
In June 1909, ground was broken for a new stone building with eight rooms, a heating plant, and two classrooms in the basement.
In 1910 the old wooden building was torn down and a new stone building was constructed. It was located in a grove of trees on the present site of Park Middle School.
In 1911, Beckley Institute had an enrollment of 395 students.
An advertisement for Beckley Institute in the Raleigh Register of July 25, 1912, stated that the school would open on Sept. 17, that it offered a four-year course, had 14 teachers in three buildings, and an enrollment of 406.
The 1915 Baccalaureate and Commencement Program for Beckley Institute lists the graduates as follows: Nellie Mae Krise, Carrie Lee Krise, Lida Pearl Clay, Lura Opal Clay, Ethel Dunn, Eva Lester Pownall, Clara Anna Scott, Perry Lester Snuffer, Lawrence Clarkson Deck, Alvin Jenner Cook, and James Dewey Abshire.
A playbill shows that the play As You Like It was presented by the Senior Class of the Beckley Institute on June 1, 1916.
Around August 1917 the town district school board reached an agreement to rent the buildings that had been used by Beckley Institute to establish the Beckley Graded and High School, which opened in September 1917. According to an early account, “On October 8, 1917, the Beckley Institute building and equipment were purchased by the Board of Education of Town District. This was the first public high school in Town District.”
For several months school was conducted in this building, but on March 22, 1918, it was destroyed by fire. Students then attended classes in local churches and then the second floor of the Deepwater Building on South Heber Street.
According to an early account, the Central Building (later Beckley Junior High School) on Kanawha Street was already under construction at the tine of the fire. In September 1919 the high school moved into this new building. The Raleigh Register of Oct. 2, 1919, reported that the building, although not completed, was being occupied. It referred to it as “the handsome new high and graded school building on South Kanawha street.” A photograph of the new building under construction appeared in the Raleigh Register of Aug. 3, 1917. According to Wood, grades 7 through 12 attended the new school. According to an early account, the building was to have been used as a grade school but after the fire it was decided to use it as a grade and high school.
According to Clay, "Mr. W. C. Woodyard was the first principal appointed for the new public high school by the Town District Board of Education. He served from the fall of 1917 until the end of the 1919 school year graduation, or the graduation of the first class of Beckley High School.” However, an early history of WWHS shows W. S. Howell as the Principal for 1918-1919.
Andrew J. Peters was the Principal fron 1919 to 1920.
In 1919 the football team defeated Oak Hill 12-0 and played Charleston to a 0-0 tie. Howard Fisher played on “Beckley’s first football team in 1919,” according to a later newspaper article.
The Beckley High School graduating class of 1920 consisted of 22 students (15 girls and 7 boys) They were: Golden Clay, Pansy Humphrey, Hallie Smith, Opal Meador, Maud Guy, Dare Keyser, Opal King, Faye Cooper, Louise Bailey, Dorothy Bair, Matilda Hoskins, Lucy Ragland, Elsie Snead, Hettie Robertson, Lyle Hatcher, Clarence Meadows, Earl Bailey, Adolph Bair, Claud Martin, Oscar Lilly, Reuben Lee, and Robert Calfee. Meadows later became Governor of West Virginia. The baccalaureate sermon was delivered by Rev. B. Lacy Hoge, pastor of First Baptist Church, and the commencement address was delivered by Prof. C. C. Rosey, president of the Concord Normal School at Athens. A 1920 newspaper article also reported that two students who would have graduated joined the army a few weeks before graduation. They were Eugene Biggs, of Riley, and Ross Meadows. The newspaper article also reported: "The graded schools of the city closed on May 14th. Despite friction between members of the teaching staff and the superintendent the term may be said to have been a successful one, in that all the children made rapid strides in their studies and patrons of the school generally are well satisfied with results.”
J. M. Reedy was principal from 1920 to 1923.
The Raleigh Register of October 28, 1920, reported that Beckley High School lost a football game at home against Hinton last Saturday, 13-12. [The article also stated that "Beckley and Alderson Baptist Academy play here Friday.”]
The Beckley High School basketball team of 1921 was coached by W. J. B. Cormany, who was later the Principal at Mark Twain High School. According to an item in the Dec. 31, 1937, Beckley Post-Herald, the 1921 team played in the state tournament at Buckhannon and lost there to Parkersburg.
On May 19, 1921, the Raleigh Register reported that 15 students were expected to receive diplomas from Beckley High School: Nola Dalton, Donna Dunn, Elbert Dupuy, Grace Davenport, Gladys Davenport, Jessie Duncan, Lois Edmundson, Mary Gatherum, Trix Hubbard, Clyde Mankin, Howard Kester, Ross Meadows, Dixon Pinkney, Margaret Sullivan, and Charlotte Webb. [Another source reports that the class of 1921 consisted of 14 students.]
The first yearbook was published by the Class of 1922. It was named the Pioneer. It shows J. M. Reedy as Principal of the Senior High and Benn. J. Ferguson as Principal of the Junior High.
In 1922, the Beckley football team defeated Bluefield, Alderson, Oak Hill, and Ronceverte, and lost to Augusta Military Academy and Charleston.
The 1923 yearbook was renamed the Echo.
John D. Farmer was principal from 1923 to 1924.
Apparently the first newspaper was established in 1923 and was titled the High School Bulletin. [In the 1927 yearbook, the senior class history records, "The class of '27' began its career with the establishment of the first High School Newspaper, which was known as the 'High School Bulletin.'" The history article implies the newspaper was founded sometime before February 1924.]
On February 3, 1924, former President Woodrow Wilson died in Washington. Sometime after he died, the decision was made to name the new high school Woodrow Wilson High School.
In 1924 voters approved a bond issue to build a new high school, which was built at a cost of $200,000. The site on which the new school was located included part of the land of the old Beckley Institute and land given to the Town District Board of Education by the Beaver Coal Company.
A drawing of the new school, dated April 15, 1924, is labeled “New High School Building—Beckley, W. Va.”
R. Emerson Langfitt was principal from 1924 to 1926.
An article by Okey R. Stover on the history of Upper Paint Creek states that in 1924 the school at Cirtsville was able to defeat WWHS in basketball. According to the article, "For several years the pupils of the Cirtsville school were able to complete all their high school up to the twelfth grade at the Cirtsville school. Then they would attend the Woodrow Wilson High School in Beckley for their senior year. We had two boys that completed all their high school work at Cirtsville and graduated with the Woodrow class. When the hard-surfaced road was completed from Cirtsville to Beckley, the county school officials ruled that high school students of Cirtsville should be taken by school bus to Beckley.”
In the 1924-25 school year, the football team played A. C. I., Princeton, East Bank, Ronceverte, Mt. Hope, Welch, Fayetteville, and Hinton.
The 1925 Echo of Beckley High School includes photos of students in grades 7 through 12. The book does not identify a principal. Among the faculty, some of whom are identified as junior high teachers, are long-time teachers Glenn Sallack and Lois Edmundson. Among the seniors is Christine Clay, perhaps the same person who later taught at Beckley Junior High School.
The 1925 Echo shows that the newspaper was called the Spotlight during the 1924-25 school year; it reports the first edition came out on December 20, 1924, although it is not clear whether it refers to the first issue ever or the first issue of the school year. The newspaper was also called the Spotlight in 1926-27 and 1927-28. An issue of the newspaper from sometime in 1927 is labeled as Volume III. The Spotlight "endured several years" but was finally forced out of existence by financial reverses, according to the first issue of the Eagle Dispatch.
The beginning of the 1925-26 school year was held at the Kanawha Street building. The crowded conditions made it necessary to have one session in the morning for the high school and one session in the afternoon for the junior high school.
On October 6, 1925, students were told they "might" move into the new building "next week," according to the 1926 Echo.
On November 9, 1925, the first classes were held in the new building on Park Avenue, which had been named Woodrow Wilson High School. Students in grades 10-12 moved to the new building. Students in grades 7-9 remained at the building on Kanawha Street. The enrollment at the new school was 380. The 1925-26 Echo recorded that on November 9, "Bag and baggage we moved into our new home, the Woodrow Wilson building," and an entry for November 15 says, "Teachers complain of no studying. We aren't used to white, white walls.” The grounds on which the new school was established were part of the site of the old Beckley Institute and land given to the Town District board by Beaver Coal Co. Construction costs were reported as $200,000. However, an advertisement in the 1925-26 Echo by J. O. Freeman, contractor and builder of the new school, says, "The new High School recently constructed at a cost of Three Hundred and Eighty Thousand Dollars, is considered as one of the most modern and complete schools in the state.”
On December 4, 1925, the new high school building was dedicated, according to an entry in the 1925-26 Echo.
When it first opened, a part of the Woodrow Wilson building was used for the Beckley Institute Elementary School, which also used rooms in the frame building referred to as the Annex.
The 1926 basketball team played (among others) Stotesbury, Logan, Princeton, Bluefield, Ronceverte, Pineville, Oak Hill, and Hinton, according to the 1925-26 Echo.
In 1926, Stratton High School graduated its first class, with seven students. A 1998 article in the Register-Herald stated that two of the seven, Rev. W. H. Law and valedictorian Grace Brown Robinson, were still living. Stratton School had been erected at Beaver Avenue and South Fayette Street around 1913, and a new structure was built there in 1939.
The 1926 Echo showed R. Emerson Langfitt as Principal. (Langfitt later became the State Supervisor of High Schools.) The faculty were: Doris Calfee, Latin; Mrs. Roy D. Milliron; Mrs. J. W. Givens, commercial department; Edgar Smith, commercial department; Gertrude Kiger, domestic art; Ethel Keyser; William D. Parker, manual training; Helen L. Smith, physical education; Lucy Ragland, French and science; Brilla Mae Lloyd, Bible-Librarian; Glenn Sallack, instrumental music; Matilda Byrd Hoskins, English and public speaking; Douglas Bowers, athletics and history; Hettie Marian Robertson, history; George M. Speicher, science and mathematics; E. R. Davies; Anna L. Stark, supervision of public school of music; Lura Clay, mathematics; and Mrs. R. Emerson Langfitt, English.
The 1926 Echo indicates that the 1925 football team, coached by Douglas Bowers, played Princeton, Bluefield, Charleston, East Bank, Alderson, Summersville, Hinton, and Mount Hope. Apparently Welch cancelled its game with WWHS, and Summersville forfeited. It reported that for the Charleston game, which was played while snow was falling, "all of Beckley’s business men closed their places of business for the occasion, and the entire community turned out to witness the big game of our season.” Bowers also coached the basketball team.
In September 1926 the school year began with 75 seniors.
On November 11, 1926, seven members of the football team were suspended, according to the Echo, which reported that on Nov. 15, Beckley defeated Bluefield with subs, and on November 16, "we're getting our team back.”
The 1927 basketball team, which was 7 and 9, played, in order, Maben, Hinton, Bluefield, Northfork, Montgomery, Mt. Hope, Northfork, Montgomery, Oak Hill, Clendenin, Charleston, Pineville, Mullens, St. Albans, Hinton, and Mt. Hope. In a sectional tournament, the team played Winding Gulf, Hinton, and Montgomery.
On July 17, 1927, the Charleston Daily Mail described C. M. Stalnaker as the new principal of WWHS. He is shown as the Principal in the 1928 Echo.
In 1928, WWHS made it to the quarter-finals of the state high school basketball tournament for the first time. The 1928 Echo shows Paul Steinbicker as basketball coach.
In 1928 or 1929 the new Institute Elementary School building was constructed, and it was no longer necessary for that school to use part of the Woodrow Wilson building.
On June 9, 1928, the Charleston Daily Mail reported that C. M. Stalnaker, the principal of WWHS, had accepted a position of superintendent of schools at Logan, and also principal of Logan High School.
Zelotes Rufus Knotts (1885-1969) served as Principal from 1928 to 1932.
The 1929 Echo shows Z. R. Knotts as Principal.
The 1929 Echo reported, "The Flying Eagles came soaring through the 1929 basket-ball season in fine shape, losing only four games out of eighteen, a record we should be proud of.” [The term "Flying Eagles" seems not to occur in the 1928 and 1927 yearbooks. According to the history by Lura Clay, "Among the many stories about [Van Meter] is that he selected the Flying Eagle as the insignia for all Woodrow Wilson Athletics.” Jerome Van Meter became head coach of football and basketball in 1929.]
The 1929 yearbook also reported, "The W. W. High School Band has now grown to be the best it ever has been, and also the largest. It averages at least two public appearances every week and when we count the rehearsals, the band is assembled close to five times per week. It plays for all athletic events, pep meetings and parades.”
Around 1930 the ninth grade from Beckley Junior High School was transferred to the new Woodrow Wilson High School on Park Ave. The school was then forced into a double-shift schedule.
The 1931 Echo indicates that Z. R. Knotts is the new Principal and lists a faculty consisting of 24 teachers. Among the seniors pictured are Joe L. Smith, Jr., later the founder of WJLS and other radio stations, Joseph Nicholas Rahall, later the founder of Rahall Broadcasting Co., and Sidney Fink, later the owner of the Hub and Vogue stores in Beckley. The Echo has: "Under the leadership of Coach Van Meter, the Flying Eagles have enjoyed two of the most successful seasons of their career. Coach has won the hearts of the student body with his magnetic personality. We appreciate the great work he is doing and we are sure that he will meet with only the greatest success in the future.” Another 1931 graduate is Ruth Wray (later Ruth Gray), a long-time math teacher at WWHS.
In May 1931, 121 seniors received diplomas. It was the largest graduating class in school history.
According to a 1950 history article, "The building was adequate for the enrollment until 1932 when, with an enrollment of 746, it began to be crowded.”
In 1931-32, a mimeographed newspaper titled The Eaglet was published by one of the English classes.
The 1932 Echo shows Z. R. Knotts as Principal. Among the seniors pictured are Okey Mills, future Sheriff of Raleigh County, and Leo Vecellio, future owner of Vecellio and Grogan Construction.
The program for the graduation exercises of May 26, 1933, shows that W. R. Fugitt was the Principal. One of the twelve ushers listed was Hulett Smith.
At the start of the 1933-34 school year Clarence G. Peregoy (1899-1994) became Principal of WWHS, replacing W. R. Fugitt. He came to WWHS from Shady Spring, where he was District Superintendent. He had come to West Virginia in 1923 to accept his first teaching job at Eccles High School, which had only 18 students and two teachers. Since Peregoy had a college degree, he was made the Principal of that school.
On October 27, 1933, the first issue of the Eagle Dispatch was published. [According to Lura Clay, the name was suggested by a student named Margaret Logan.]
No yearbook was published for the 1933-34 school year. An editorial in the newspaper explained that the newspaper did not replace the yearbook, but that financial considerations precluded the publication of a yearbook. The final issue of the newspaper in 1933-34 was a larger issue and included numerous photos and other features normally found in a yearbook. This was the only year in the history of WWHS that no yearbook was published. Yearbooks were also published each year by the earlier Beckley High School beginning in 1922.
The 1933 enrollment stood at 840.
In 1934, WWHS made it to the semi-finals of the state high school basketball tournament for the first time.
The Nov. 16, 1934, Raleigh Register reported that the Flying Eagles would play football against the Mount Hope Mustangs on the following day (Saturday afternoon) in the homecoming game, and that the new stadium at Woodrow Wilson would be dedicated. The article mentioned that the two teams had played 11 times since 1923, with Beckley winning 9 games and tying the other two. The article reported, "Woodrow Wilson’s peppy cheerleaders, Salwa Rahal and Thelma Vannoy, who have worked like Trojans in getting out the student body throughout the school year and have directed the organized cheers at every game, have exerted every effort to have the largest group of students out tomorrow that has attended a game this season.”
According to a 1950 history article, "In 1935, the old frame building back of the Junior High School, which as since been remodeled, was abandoned as an elementary school, and the students put in the Junior High School building. This necessitated some action to take care of a growing Junior High School student body. It was at that time that Woodrow Wilson High School was put on a double schedule, and a portion of the ninth grade was transferred from Junior High School. This double shift schedule was continued until 1942 when an addition to Woodrow Wilson High School was constructed.” Another account has: "In 1935, the second year of the county unit of school administration, a frame building at the back of Beckley Junior High School was abandoned, and the students moved into the junior high school building. In turn, a part of the ninth grade from Beckley Junior High School was transferred to Woodrow Wilson High School. This action raised the enrollment to nearly 1100, and the school went on a straight double-shift schedule, with classes beginning a little after 7:00 in the morning and continuing through to approximately 5:00 in the afternoon. The school operated on this basis for seven years.”
In 1940, WWHS played in the championship game in the state high school basketball tournament for the first time. The team, which was 25-3, lost to Wheeling, 68-49.
Peak enrollment was reached in 1940-41 when the student body reached 1,599, including the 9th grade and some students from Sophia. [This peak occurred during the period from 1935 to 1942 when a portion of the ninth grade attended WWHS. A decrease in enrollment occurred when Sophia High School was constructed, and the 9th grade was transferred to the junior high school.]
In 1941 a special levy was passed and additions were constructed at both BJHS and WWHS. In the fall of 1942 these additions were occupied by the respective schools, and the ninth grade was transferred to BJHS. WWHS went on an eight-period schedule.
The two tenth grades were united in the 1941-42 school year, according to a reference in the 1944 Yearbook.
During World War II enrollment in the upper grades dropped to about 1060, and the school then went on a seven-period day and remained that way for many years.
Coach Lawrence Wiseman started Woodrow’s first baseball team in 1940, according to information in the 1983 yearbook. According to the 1950 yearbook, "Baseball was first started in Woodrow Wilson High School in 1941. Wiseman was the coach in charge. Coach Ken Hunt kept Baseball going during the war years. In 1947 Coach Wiseman took over again and is now still head of the Baseball team. In the elimination for the state title Woodrow Wilson gained entrance to the state tournament once which was in the year 1947. Baseball has had several boys on the All State team and four boys played in the North South Baseball game.”
A column in the Eagle Dispatch of Sept. 24, 1943, has: "Then we could try girl cheerleaders once. Other schools have tried them and it worked. We have plenty of girls with previous experience at Junior high. We used to have girls.” The same column refers to a "cheerleader incident" and says that the cheerleaders walked off during last Friday night’s game.
The introduction to the 1944 Woodrow Wilson High School yearbook reads, "This year at Woodrow Wilson has been greatly affected by the War. We, in the class of '44, are proud and happy that we have been active in helping to win the final victory that is to come.” The 1944 yearbook shows only 41 faculty photos, whereas three years earlier, the yearbook had pictured 53 faculty members.
The Oct. 1, 1945, the Eagle Dispatch reported that 59 former WWHS students had been killed in World War II.
In 1946, under coach Jerome Van Meter, WWHS won its first state basketball championship, defeating Stonewall Jackson High School of Charleston 40-37 in Morgantown.
In 1947, the Flying Eagle Band was featured at the Chicago Music Festival.
In 1947, WWHS shared the first state football championship with Stonewall Jackson of Charleston. [According to the 1948 yearbook, the 1947 football team was the first undefeated term in WWHS history.]
In March 1948, WWHS and Parkersburg were the only two teams participating in the first state wrestling tournament. Parkersburg won the tournament.
In 1948, WWHS won the state football championship. [The 1949 yearbook has: "We are extremely proud of our Flying Eagles this year, as they have flown through two undefeated seasons. They took Co-Championship honors last year and Championship honors this year.”]
Woodrow Wilson won the state championship in wrestling in 1949, 1952, and 1954 under Coach Vic Peelish.
In 1949, the Flying Eagle Band represented West Virginia at the international convention of Lions in New York.
In 1949-50 the enrollment stood at 1184.
In 1950 a bond issue provided funds for the construction of another wing at WWHS. At the same time, the old frame building that had been previously occupied by Institute Elementary was moved and remodeled for use by WWHS.
In May 1950, 272 students graduated.
In September 1950, WJLS began broadcasting WWHS football games for the first time since the war. After the first two weeks, the play-by-play was done by Bill Barrett, who continued doing the games for several years. [Radio stations WWNR and WCFC were also on the air at this time; they may also have broadcast the games.]
Around 1951, WWHS began playing basketball games at the Recreation Center.
On Nov. 17, 1951, WWHS won the state football class A championship by defeating Gary, 26-0 at Bluefield.
In the 1950s, under Van Meter, WWHS won the state basketball championship in 1951 (defeating Charleston 62-54), 1952 (defeating Fairmont west 53-52), in 1953 (defeating Parkersburg 74-58), in 1954 (defeating Mullens 84-66), and in 1957 (defeating Charleston 82-70).
In 1955, Van Meter was succeeded as football coach by Nelson Bragg.
In 1956-57 enrollment peaked at 1582.
In 1959, Van Meter was succeeded as basketball coach by Lawrence Wiseman.
In the fall of 1960, enrollment was 1412.
In the fall of 1961, enrollment stood at 1472.
In 1962, the 3700-seat Raleigh County Armory-Field House was constructed. Basketball games were subsequently played at this facility.
In 1962, Ken Wheeler replaced Nelson Bragg as football coach.
On March 17, 1962, under Wiseman, WWHS won the state basketball championship, defeating Weir High School 71-69 after trailing by as many as 13 points in the fourth quarter. A newspaper article in 1975 called the 1961-62 team Woodrow’s greatest basketball team. The 25-0 record was the only perfect record "before and since.” The starting lineup that year consisted of Bane Sarrett, Ronnie Cimala, Pack Hindsley, Bill Karbonit, and Dave Barksdale.
On Oct. 22, 1963, voters approved a bond levy to finance the construction and renovation of several schools, including construction of a new high school in Beckley. The issue was contentious because it seemed that Beckley would continue to have two largely segregated high schools. In a front page editorial the day before the vote, headlined “A Matter of WHAT IS RIGHT,” the Raleigh Register urged a “no” vote, pointing out that the projected capacity of the new high school was less than the combined enrollments of Woodrow Wilson and Stratton high schools.
Under Wiseman, WWHS won the state title again in 1965, defeating Williamson.
On Dec. 21, 1965, the Raleigh County Board of Education awarded a $2,814,060 contract to Hewmont Construction Co. of Culloden for construction of a new high school.
On Jan. 2, 1966, C. G. Peregoy, who had served as Principal of WWHS for most of its history, left that position and was replaced by Hubert L. Jackson. Peregoy handed out 11,001 diplomas as Principal.
In 1967 under Coach Wiseman, Beckley defeated Charleston in overtime 75-69 to win the state basketball championship.
In 1967, the NAACP petitioned the school board, urging that the new high school not be named Woodrow Wilson High School, preferring instead a neutral name since the school would be receiving students from WWHS and Stratton High School. The petition had over 400 signatures.
In September 1967, Woodrow Wilson High School moved to a new building at a 93-acre site on Stanaford Road purchased from Leo Vecilio for $125,000. The former building became Park Junior High School. The new school cost a total of around $3,035,000, including land, utilities, site preparation, and furnishing.
The principals of Woodrow Wilson High School since the opening of the Stanaford Road site are: Hubert Jackson, Ross Hutchens, Racine Thompson, Miller Hall, Robert “Bob” Maynard, Marsha Smith, and Ronald Cantley.
During the first year of operation at the new site (1967-68), a record number of 2,432 students attended WWHS.
In 1968, under Coach Wiseman, the basketball team lost the state championship title match to Charleston. (The 1968 Charleston team is considered by some the best high school basketball team ever in West Virginia.)
In June 1968, 613 students graduated. They were the first class to attend the new facility, in their senior year only.
At the end of the second year of operation at the new site (1968-69), a record 669 seniors graduated. An article in the Beckley Post-Herald of Aug. 2, 1975, said that that record “still stands.”
In 1969, Joel Hicks became football coach.
The 1970 yearbook shows Hubert L. Jackson as Principal and Ross Hutchens and Emmette Hurt as Vice Principals.
On Nov. 14, 1970, a plane carrying the Marshall University football team crashed. Among those killed were Marshall Sports Information Director Gene Morehouse, who had done play-by-play broadcasts of WWHS football and basketball games on radio station WJLS, and his assistant, Gary George, a 1968 WWHS graduate.
The 1972 yearbook shows Hubert L. Jackson as Principal and Ross Hutchens and Emmette Hurt as Assistant Principals.
In its Feb. 9, 1973, issue, the Eagle Dispatch named Wiseman coach of the month, and wrote:
The athletic director and head basketball coach is the February Coach of the Month. C. Lawrence Wiseman, better known as "Preach," is one of only two basketball coaches employed at Woodrow since 1928, the other being Jerome Van Meter. Until Jackie Joe Robinson came to WWHS, Coach Wiseman had been the only head baseball coach to serve the school.
At the start of the 1974-75 school year, Ross Hutchens became Principal, succeeding Hubert L. Jackson, who was transferred to school district offices. Mr. Hutchens had previously served for ten years as an assistant principal at WWHS. He was born June 15, 1924 in Crandull, Tennesse, and died in Beckley on March 28, 2014. According to a 1975 newspaper article, Hutchens had played high school ball at Mark Twain High School, and was a member of the first team from that school to defeat WWHS in basketball, in 1937. He later coached at Sophia High and Beckley Junior High under Ross Irle.
Beginning with the 1975-76 school term, a modified modular schedule went into effect, allowing students to choose from a list of more than 300 different courses. Each class lasted 30 minutes, rather than the traditional 55 minutes, and students were required to attend 12 of the "mods," or mini-classes, daily.
On March 23, 1976, the school board named Pete Culicerto as the head coach of the football team.
The 1976 yearbook shows Ross Hutchens as Principal and Emmette Hurt and Gene Hedrick as Vice Principals.
On Nov. 26, 1977, WWHS won the state AAA championship in football under head coach Pete Culicerto. The team had lost no games during the regular season. It shut out 7 of 12 opponents on the way to the school’s first state football title since 1951.
The 1979 yearbook shows Ross A. Hutchens as Principal and Gene K. Hedrick and Emmette Hurt as Vice Principals.
On August 1, 1982, a retirement party was held for Coach Lawrence "Preach" Wiseman. As head basketball coach, he compiled a record of 277 wins and 122 losses. He coached 790 games in 35 years. After stepping down as a coach, he had become the Athletic Director and taught geometry. The October 1982 Eagle Dispatch quoted Wiseman as saying, "I enjoyed teaching and coaching, but I am enjoying myself now. I thought 42 years was long enough for me to be around.”
In October 1982, the Eagle Dispatch published a 16-page edition, which was described by editor B. Hopkins in the 1983 yearbook as the largest sized issue in the paper’s history.
The 1983 yearbook shows Ross A. Hutchens as Principal and Gene K. Hedrick and Emmette Hurt as Vice Principals. The 1983 yearbook reported: "This year the Echo staff was faced with many financial problems due to the economy. The size of the book was reduced but the quality was increased.”
During the 1986-87 school year, the Principal was Racine Thompson.
During the 1993-94 school year, the Principal was Miller Hall, who had earlier taught social studies. He attended WWHS.
On April 19, 1994, longtime Principal C. G. Peregoy died.
In the 1990s, under Coach Dave Barksdale, WWHS won state titles in 1990 (defeating Martinsburg), 1992 (defeating Fairmont 79-59), 1993 (defeating Brooke 68-66), in 1997 (defeating Wheeling Park 83-76), and in 1998 (defeating Fairmont 75-47). Barksdale had played on the 1962 championship team. WWHS was nationally ranked several times in the 1990s.
At the start of the 1995-96 school year a four-by-four block schedule was instituted.
In January 1999, Charles R. Maynard became Principal, replacing Miller Hall, who had been Principal for 9 1/2 years.
The 1999 yearbook shows Charles R. Maynard as Principal and Fred Hill and Carlton Spicer as administrators.
In the 2000-01 season, the WWHS football team had an undefeated 9-0 record under first-year coach John Lilly, who had replaced Pete Culicerto. The baseball team, under coach Mark Daniel, had 23 victories, the most in school history.
In November 2001, the Raleigh County School Board was considering changing the junior high schools in Beckley to middle schools (grades 6-8) and thus adding 9th graders to Woodrow Wilson High School beginning as early as August 2002. If adopted, the change would increase the WWHS student population from about 1100 to 1500. On Dec. 11, 2001, the school board voted to wait until at least the 2003-04 school year to implement the plan.
On Nov. 9, 2002, WWHS won the state boys soccer championship, defeating Wheeling Park 3-1. The team, under Coach Rocky Powell, was top-ranked all season, and had a record of 21-1-1. It was the first soccer championship for Flying Eagles, who lost 1-0 to Parkersburg in the 1996 finals.
On June 1, 2003, the WWHS website shows the administration as follows: Charles R. Maynard, Principal; Jacqueline McPeake, Assistant Principal Attendance; Evert Mills, Assistant Principal Discipline & Athletic Director; and Richard Rappold, Assistant Principal Curriculum & Instruction.
In 2003 WWHS won the state volleyball championship.
In December 2003, WWHS was accepted as a member of the Mountain State Athletic Conference.
On March 20, 2004, WWHS won its fifteenth state basketball championship, defeating Hedgesville 49-41 in the Class AAA state finals in Charleston. It was the first title under coach Ron Kidd.
WWHS won the 2004 state soccer title, defeating Parkersburg 3-1 to claim the championship. It was the school’s second title in three years. WWHS was ranked tenth in the U. S. in the NSCAA/Addidas soccer prep poll.
On March 19, 2005, WWHS lost to Huntington, 67-56, in the state championship title game in basketball.
On Feb. 14, 2006, Principal Bob Maynard described for the school board the WWHS Eagle Academy, which is to be instituted at the start of the 2006-07 school year. The academy will isolate ninth-grade students in one wing of the school, where they will be taught in permanent groups that move together from one class to the next. Four core instructors, teaching math, English, social studies and science, will serve as an interdisciplinary team and share the same group of students. They will also share a common planning period. Ninth-grade students, unless through an elective such as marching band, would not mix with older students.
WWHS was closed for one day on March 6, 2006, after custodians discovered cooking oil, ammonia, vinegar, and food coloring covering hallways throughout the school. A week later police arrested 14 students who they said were responsible for the vandalism.
The football team spent much of the 2005-06 season as the state’s top-rated Class AAA team, but in 2006-07 it had an unusual 1-9 record.
In 2007, the football stadium at Park Junior High School (the old WWHS) was renamed Bobby Pruett Stadium, and the name Van Meter Stadium was transferred to the football stadium at Woodrow Wilson High School.
On Nov. 6, 2010, the Flying Eagles captured the Class AAA state soccer championship with a 1-0 victory over Wheeling Park at Paul Cline Stadium. It was the third championship for WWHS since 2002.
Principal Bob Maynard was scheduled to become the Taylor County Schools Superintendent on July 1, 2011. He had been principal since 2000. Marsha Smith was appointed to succeed him as Principal at the start of the 2011-2012 school year.
On March 16, 2013, WWHS lost to Martinsburg, 57-52, in the championship game of the state basketball tournament.
In 2014 the school’s web site showed that the administration consisted of Marsha Smith, Patricia Zutaut, Evert Mills, and Eric Dillon.
In Jan. 2016 Chad “Street” Sarrett was named the 12th head football coach at Woodrow Wilson High School.
At the start of the 2016-17 school year, the school switched back to the more traditional six-period day.
In Feb. 2017 Principal Ron Cantley said that the Raleigh County Board of Education was considering eliminating the ROTC program. He said that enrollment at WWHS stood at about 1,300.
In August 2017 the baseball field was named in honor of former coach Tom Parham.
Principal Ron Cantley retired during the 2017-18 school year, with his last day at WWHS being Nov. 3, 2017.
In December 2017 Assistant Principal Rocky Powell was chosen to be the next principal of WWHS, effective Jan. 1, 2018.
In February 2020 a widely reported news story detailed how West Virginia Governor Jim Justice, an alum of WWHS, coaching the Greenbrier East girls basketball team, called the WWHS girls basketball team “a bunch of thugs” during a game between the two teams.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, on May 23, 2020, WWHS held a “drive-through” commencement ceremony. Principal Rocky Powell handed out diplomas to students who briefly exited their cars in the front of the school’s main building.
On June 28, 2020, the Register-Herald editorialized in favor of changing the name of Woodrow Wilson High School because Wilson was a racist.
High Schools in Beckley
This article was taken from Beckley USA, which was published in the 1950s.
By Mr. C. G. Peregoy, Principal, Woodrow Wilson High School
High school education in Beckley began in 1900, when a group of interested citizens started a private tuition-supported school. It was named Beckley Seminary and continued to 1907, when it was sold to the Christian Board Mission of the Disciples of Christ. The name of the school was then changed to Beckley Institute.
The original building was a large two-story frame structure with a bell tower and was located where the present Institute Elementary School is located on Park Avenue. In 1910, a new stone building was constructed. It was located in a grove of trees on the present site of Woodrow Wilson High School. This building burned in 1917. The land on which it was located was sold to the Town District Board of Education. In 1918, the high school was opened as a public school and occupied the building now known as the Beckley Junior High School.
In the early 1920’s, it became apparent that the building would not be adequate to accommodate the number of pupils who would be attending high school in a few years, so the Town District Board of Education made plans for a new building. Through the proceeds from a bond issue, the present Woodrow Wilson High School, was constructed. This site on which it is located included part of the land of the old Beckley Institute and land given to the Town District Board of Education by the Beaver Coal Company. The building was occupied in December 1925.
The old Beckley Seminary and Beckley Institute were four-year high schools. When the public high school was opened in 1918 under the Town District Board of Education, a six-year high school was established. Then in 1925 when the Woodrow Wilson High School building was occupied, the junior high school remained at the South Kanawha Street building, and the senior high school, grades 10, 11 and 12, were transferred to the Park Avenue structure. For a few years, a part of the Woodrow Wilson building was used for the Beckley Institute Elementary School, as well as for the high school. At the time of the opening of the Woodrow Wilson High School, the frame building now referred to as The Annex was used for the Institute Elementary School, in addition to the rooms occupied in the main part of the high school building. The use of a part of the high school building for elementary school work was continued to 1935. The present elementary school was constructed in 1929 and most of the students transferred to that building.
The enrollment of Woodrow Wilson High School increased through the years, paralleling the growth in the county and the increasing number of students attending high school. At the time Woodrow Wilson was first occupied, many felt that the building was far in excess of any future needs. By 1930, the capacity of the building was reached, and thereafter as the enrollment increased, the building became increasingly more crowded. In 1935, the second year of the county unit of school administration, the frame building at the back of the Beckley Junior High School, commonly referred to as the Central Elementary School, was abandoned, and the students moved into the junior high building. In turn, a part of the ninth grade from the Beckley Junior High School was transferred to Woodrow Wilson High School. This action raised the enrollment to something near 1100, and the school went on a straight double-shift schedule, with Classes beginning a little after 7:00 in the morning and continuing through to approximately 5:00 in the afternoon. The school operated on this basis for seven years.
Meanwhile, the Central Elementary building, which previously had been abandoned, was remodeled and re-occupied by the Central Elementary School. In 1941, a special levy was passed and additions were constructed at both the Beckley Junior High School and Woodrow Wilson High School. In the fall of 1942, these additions were occupied by the respective schools, and the ninth grade was transferred to the Beckley Junior High School, and Woodrow Wilson went on an eight-period schedule. During the war years, the enrollment in the upper three grades dropped to about 1060, and then the school went on a seven-period day on which it has operated since that time. In 1950, a bond issue provided funds for the construction of another wing at the Woodrow Wilson High School. At the same time, the old frame building that had been previously occupied by the Beckley Institute Elementary School was moved and remodeled for use by the high school.
A peak enrollment at Woodrow Wilson was reached in 1940-41 when the total enrollment was 1599 pupils. This included the ninth grade and students from Sophia. After the construction of the Sophia High School and the transfer of the ninth grade to the junior high school, there was a decrease in enrollment. But since that time, the peak enrollment of 1582 was reached in 1956-57. Then the enrollment went down until in the fall of 1960, it was 1412. School opened in the fall of 1961 with 1472 pupils.
Professor B. H. White served as the first principal of the Beckley Seminary and associated with him for a short time was Dr. W. W. Trent, who later served six terms as State Superintendent of Schools. In 1907, Mr. E. W. McDiarmid came to serve as principal. Other principals who have served include Mr. Raymond Smith, Mr. F. F. Grimm, Mr. Andrew Peters, Mr. John D. Farmer, Mr. R. Emerson Langfitt, Mr. C. L. Stalnaker, Mr. Z. R. Knotts, Mr. W. R. Fugitt, and Mr. C. G. Peregoy, who has served since 1933. Among the better known teachers are the Misses Bessie, Addie and Edna Lanier, who served in the Beckley Institute, and Mrs. Goldie S. Bostic, Miss Lura Clay, Mrs. Doris Calfee Durrance, Mrs. Mabel Hughes Givens, Misses Ethel and Eva Keyser, Mrs. Eula Givens Milliron, J. A. Sharp and Miss Jean Porter. A number currently serving have long and distinguished careers.
The Beckley Seminary and Beckley Institute, in the first two decades of this century, served not only Beckley, but many pupils came from the county at large and a few from other counties. Many of these students went on to colleges and universities and became professional people in fields of law, medicine, teaching, and the like. In recent years, a relatively high percentage of the Woodrow Wilson graduates have entered college, and in the years since the war, this has fluctuated from 42 to 54 per cent of the graduates entering some work in advanced training beyond high school.
In more recent years, numerous graduates have won full or part-time scholarships and the number winning scholarships each year has varied from about 18 to 34. Among the more outstanding classes was that of 1959 whose members won scholarships amounting to a total value of $50,000.
The program of the school has been cosmopolitan in nature, though at times, there has not been available facilities and personnel to carry on a balanced program. At one time or another, French and Spanish, among the foreign languages, and art and mechanical drawing have not been offered because teachers were not available. For a number of years, the school had no art because of lack of facilities.
Woodrow Wilson has had an outstanding record in many phases of its activities, and among the best known are the Flying Eagle Band under the direction of Mr. Glenn Sallack, and the Flying Eagle teams under Mr. J. R. Van Meter and Mr. Lawrence Wiseman. In the earlier days of the forensic program of the state, Woodrow Wilson won many regional championships, and in recent years have had scholarship winners at the state level.
Did You Know That...
B. H. S. Will Turn Out 22 Graduates
Largest Class in the History of Beckley Schools Will Receive DiplomasThis article appeared in a Beckley newspaper in 1920. It was transcribed by Susan Lively.
The Beckley high school will turn out week after next the largest class of graduates in the history of Beckley schools. Despite this fact, however, the class is much smaller than it ought to be, and seems to indicate that Beckley young people are not taking advantage of the educational opportunities afforded as they should.
The graduating class numbers twenty-two - fifteen girls and seven boys, who are as follows: Golden Clay, Pansy Humphrey, Hallie Smith, Opal Meador, Maud Guy, Dare Keyser, Opal King, Faye Cooper, Louise Bailey, Dorothy Bair, Matilda Hoskins, Lucy Ragland, Elsie Snead, Hettie Robertson, Lyle Hatcher, Clarence Meadows, Earl Bailey, Adolph Bair, Claud Martin, Oscar Lilly, Reuben Lee, and Robert Calfee.
Graduation exercises will be comparatively simple. They will begin on Sunday, June 6th, with the baccalaureate sermon to be delivered in the auditorium of the high school building. Class day exercises are scheduled for Monday, June 7th, and the commencement program, including the presentation of diplomas, will be rendered Tuesday evening.
The baccalaureate sermon will be delivered by Rev. B. Lacy Hoge, pastor of the First Baptist church, and the commencement address by Prof. C.C. Rosey, president of the Concord normal school at Athens.
Two members of the class who would have graduated at this time deserted it only a few weeks before graduation and joined the army. They were Eugene Biggs, of Riley, and Ross Meadows, son of the late Isadore Meadows. Both are now in the United States army for a term of years.
The graded schools of the city closed on May 14th. Despite friction between members of the teaching staff and the superintendent the term may be said to have been a successful one, in that all the children made rapid strides in their studies and patrons of the school generally are well satisfied with results.