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A Look Back at Early VISTA Workers in Appalachia

U.S. National Archive Jack Corn
A boy in Raleigh County takes a swing at baseball while behind him is a mine site

On Inside Appalachia this week, a look back at VISTA workers and the impact they had on our region in the 1960's. They were Volunteers in Service to America.  VISTA was started in December 1964 by President Lyndon B Johnson as part of his "War on Poverty". 

 Most of the early VISTAs were middle or upper class college graduates in their early 20s. Like the Peace Corps which sent eager volunteers to foreign countries, VISTAS were sent to low income communities all over the U.S.  Today VISTA is under the umbrella of AmeriCorps, begun by President Bill Clinton in the 1990's.  

And we’ll hear an excerpt from “Jay: A Rockefellers Journey” , a documentary that just won a regional Emmy Award. In it- former Senator Jay Rockefeller talks talk about his time in WV as a VISTA volunteer. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=emLZVNGRNLs

And we'll hear from an Academy Award nominated film, called Before the Mountain was Moved, that's based on the true story of the VISTAs who came to work along Coal River in 1966-1967.


Special thanks to Gibbs Kinderman for his help with this episode. A lot of the voices and sound material in this episode were first produced as a radio documentary called "Voices From the 60s", produced by Gibbs Kinderman in 1988. Music in today’s show was provided by Billy Ed Wheeler with "Coal Tattoo" and "They Can't Put it Back", Montana Skies with "The Edge of Night", Little Sparrow, and Michael Kline. Our What’s in a Name theme music is by Marteka and William with “Johnson Ridge Special”.


Jessica can be heard on Inside Appalachia and West Virginia Morning the station’s daily radio news program. You can reach her at jlilly@wvpublic.org
Roxy Todd is a reporter and producer for Inside Appalachia and has been a reporter for West Virginia Public Broadcasting since 2014. She’s won several awards, including a regional AP Award for best feature radio story, and also two regional Edward R. Murrow awards. You can reach her at rtodd@wvpublic.org.