Educator W. W. Trent died on June 15, 1960, at age 82. Having served as state superintendent of schools for nearly a quarter-century, Trent was known to legions of West Virginia schoolchildren for his scrawled signature on their report cards.
The Nicholas County native went to Marshall State Normal School (now Marshall University) and Columbia University before rising through the teaching ranks to become secretary of the West Virginia Education Association, editor of the influential West Virginia School Journal, and president of Broaddus College and Alderson-Broaddus College for six years.
After becoming state superintendent in 1933, Trent implemented the new county unit system in public schools. An outspoken defender of teacher interests, he fought off several attempts to check his powers and played a key role in the racial integration of West Virginia schools.
He was also a formidable Democratic politician. He won reelection to superintendent five times and, on several instances, garnered more votes than his party’s candidate for governor. His long political career came to an end after Dwight Eisenhower and the Republicans swept the state in the 1956 election.