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Dr. Kenneth Bailey to discuss Battle of Stanaford at ninth-annual Rice Lecture

Dr. Kenneth R. Bailey

On February 25, 1903, seven striking miners were killed in a raid in Stanaford, West Virginia, just ten minutes from WVU Tech’s campus. The event was both a local tragedy and a dark blot on the state of labor relations in the United States. It occurred just months after the nationally significant 1902 coal strikes in Pennsylvania and marked a period of unrest in the West Virginia coalfields that culminated in violent coal wars that didn’t end in the state until the 1920s.

On Thursday, September 28, Dr. Kenneth R. Bailey will deliver the ninth-annual Otis K. Rice Lecture at WVU Tech. His lecture will examine the incident in Stanaford, as well as the murder of striking miner John Harless, and the responses of Raleigh County legal officials and the federal courts.

Dr. Paul Rakes, a professor of history at WVU Tech, organized the lecture series as a way to recognize Dr. Otis K. Rice, who served at WVU Tech for 30 years, published numerous works on state history and became West Virginia’s first Historian Laureate.

He said it’s also a way to connect the community to interesting examinations of historical events.

"The purpose of the series is to bring recognized historians to campus so that their work can be shared within the general community," he said.

For the first lecture on the Beckley campus. Rakes wanted to feature a topic of local historical interest.

"I wanted something specifically for this area, and people are very interested in this,” he said. “Dr. Bailey has conducted a wealth of research on coal history, particularly on the Coal Wars, and he's a recognized authority on the Battle of Stanaford."

Bailey is an emeritus professor and retired dean of the College of Business, Humanities and Sciences at WVU Tech. His scholarly work on West Virginia’s history includes “Mountaineers Are Free: A History of the West Virginia National Guard,” “Alleged Evil Genius: the Life and Times of Judge James H. Ferguson,” and “Raising the Bar: The West Virginia Bar Association.” He is the author of several influential scholarly articles, including “Temptation to Lawlessness: Peonage in West Virginia, 1903-1908” and “A Judicious Mixture, Negroes and Immigrants in the West Virginia Coal Mines, 1880-1917.” Bailey is also a recipient of the prestigious Virgil A. Lewis Award for his significant contributions to the writing a preservation of West Virginia History.

Rakes is encouraging students, faculty, staff and the general community to attend. He said that beyond a general interest in the story, learning more about history can offer valuable insight into today’s world.  

"A better understanding of our past, particularly our local past, can inform how we think about problems and even the judgment calls we make today. It influences how we see the world around us when we have this deeper context," he said.

The lecture will be hosted at 6:30 p.m. in the Carter Hall Auditorium and is open to the public.