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August 30, 1968: Wally Barron Acquitted of Federal Charges

WV Humanities Council

On August 30, 1968, Wally Barron was acquitted of federal charges stemming from alleged money kickbacks and rigged state contracts during the time he was governor. Several of Barron’s associates weren’t so fortunate. His road commissioner, Burl Sawyers; Deputy State Road Commissioner, Vincent J. Johnkoski; Finance and Administration Commissioner Truman Gore; longtime Barron friend Bonn Brown of Elkins; and Clarksburg auto dealer Fred Schroath were all convicted in the kickback scheme. 

But the former governor didn’t escape his legal problems for long. It was soon rumored that Barron and his wife, Opal, had bribed the jury foreman—the lone jury holdout for acquitting Barron. In 1971, a federal jury indicted both Barrons for bribery, claiming the former first lady had passed $25,000 in a brown paper bag to the jury foreman’s wife.

Wally Barron pleaded guilty to a new indictment of conspiracy, bribery, and obstruction of justice in exchange for the charges being dropped against his wife. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison and served four. He died in 2002 at age 90. Opal Barron died in 2010 at age 95.

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