On December 24, 1942, the President’s Committee on Fair Employment Practices ordered that seven Jehovah’s Witnesses have their jobs reinstated at the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company plant in Clarksburg. The seven had been fired a year earlier after declining to participate in union-sponsored, flag-salute ceremonies due to their religious beliefs. Union truckers refused to accept glass produced by the workers, prompting the company to fire all seven Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Paul Schmidt, one of the seven, requested assistance from First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who referred his letter to the president’s committee. Based on the committee’s ruling, the seven returned to work in March 1943 after the union promised that the workers would not be harassed.
This was just one of several incidents during the 1940s when Jehovah’s Witnesses were persecuted in West Virginia for their perceived unpatriotic behavior. They were violently attacked, often with the complicity of government officials, in numerous towns. Throughout the state, Jehovah’s Witnesses’ children were expelled from school for refusing to salute the flag. Three Kanawha County families filed court challenges to the expulsions and won a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1943.