June 29, 1919: West Virginia State Police Established
The West Virginia State Police was established on June 29, 1919. Governor John Jacob Cornwell had pushed to form the unit in response to the mine wars, which were rocking southern West Virginia. Cornwell had grown frustrated with ineffective sheriffs and constables who had to face reelection and, at the same time, tended to take sides in labor struggles. Also, coal companies were hiring some deputies to serve as private security guards, and coal company guards were being sworn in as deputies—all of which angered miners. The state police came into existence with vocal opposition from labor leaders.
The first state police superintendent was Jackson Arnold, the grand-nephew of ‘‘Stonewall’’ Jackson. Company B was soon dispatched to Williamson—located in the heart of the mine wars. Troopers also helped defend Logan County against armed miners during the Battle of Blair Mountain.
The West Virginia State Police later expanded to include rural law enforcement, traffic safety, a Criminal Investigation Bureau, and a training academy. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover once lauded the West Virginia State Police as being one of the nation’s four leading law enforcement agencies.