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May 21, 1971: Historian Festus Summers Dies at 76

WV Regional and History Collection

One of West Virginia’s foremost historians, Festus Summers, died on May 21, 1971, at age 76. The Nicholas County native started his teaching career in a one-room Clay County school and later taught in Fayette and Mercer counties. He also served as superintendent of schools in Jane Lew. In 1928, he became a professor of history and political science at Morris Harvey College (now University of Charleston), which was then located in Barboursville.

Summers received an A. B. degree from West Virginia University in 1923 and returned in 1931 as an archivist. From 1947 to 1962, he chaired WVU’s history department. His primary interests focused on the Civil War, West Virginia statehood, and political and economic developments in the new state. He wrote a seminal book about the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad in the Civil War. With Elizabeth Cometti, he coedited The Thirty-Fifth State: A Documentary History of West Virginia, and with Charles Ambler, he cowrote West Virginia: The Mountain State—which was the standard state history textbook for years.

In addition, Festus Summers helped organize and later served as president of the West Virginia Historical Society.

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