West Virginia

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West Virginia
Capital Charleston
Nickname The Mountain State
Official Language English
Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, D
Senator Jay Rockefeller, D
(202) 224-6472
Senator Joe Manchin, D
(202) 224-3954
Ratification of Constitution/or statehood June 20, 1863 (35th)
Flag of West Virginia Motto: "Montani semper liberi" (Mountaineers are always free)
Map of West Virginia

West Virginia became the thirty-fifth state on June 20, 1863, after separating from Virginia during the American Civil War. Its official nickname is "The Mountain State," which is apt considering that West Virginia has the highest mean elevation of any state east of the Mississippi River. West Virginians commonly refer to themselves as Mountaineers. The team name of the state's flagship university—West Virginia University—is also the Mountaineers. "Montani semper liberi," the state's slogan, translates to "Mountaineers are always free."



West Virginia was granted statehood during the American Civil War. The Commonwealth of Virginia, which had since colonial times included the counties that now comprise West Virginia, voted to secede from the Union; however, the counties in western Virginia were more sympathetic to the Union. To avoid seceding from the Union, these counties seceded from Virginia in 1861 in order remain part of the United States. President Lincoln granted the counties of Western Virginia formal statehood in 1863.

State Facts

West Virginia is comprised of 55 counties lying between the Ohio River on the west and the high Allegheny ridges of the Appalachian Mountains on the East. The northern border is formed by the North Branch Potomac River, the southwestern corner of Pennsylvania, and the Ohio River. Its odd shape and long panhandles are the result of irregular borders with other states that follow rivers and ridges. A Mountaineer once quipped, "It is a pretty good state for the shape it's in."

The population is 1,818,470.[1]

The State Flower is the Rhododendron; the State Tree is the Sugar Maple; the State Bird is the cardinal; and the State Animal is the black bear.

Tourism brochures, driver's licenses, license plates, and road signs describe West Virginia with the slogan "Wild and Wonderful." John Denver's hit song 'Country Roads' has helped make West Virginia a symbol of Appalachian life throughout the world.

The capital city, Charleston, has a population of 51,394[1] and is located on the Kanawha River in the south-central region of the state known as "Metro Valley." In addition to Charleston, there are nine other metropolitan areas in West Virginia (some include parts of bordering states):

  • Cumberland, MD-WV
  • Hagerstown-Martinsburg, MD-WV
  • Huntington-Ashland, WV-KY-OH
  • Morgantown, WV
  • Parkersburg-Marietta-Vienna, WV-OH
  • Weirton-Steubenville, WV-OH
  • Wheeling, WV-OH
  • Winchester, VA-WV

The highest elevation in West Virginia is Spruce Knob in Pendleton County at 4,862 feet.

The state has been the birthplace of many notable men and woman, including Pearl S. Buck, General Thomas (Stonewall) Jackson, General Chuck Yeager, John Henry, Don Knotts, and Senator Robert Byrd.

Physical Geography

West Virginia is about 80% forested and supports a strong timber industry. It is also one of the leading coal producing states, in past decades often rotating with Kentucky as the number one coal producer. Wyoming, in the American Redoubt, has recently surpassed both states as the #1 coal producer. West Virginia is also a productive agricultural state, and was a leader in steel and chemical production in the early and mid 20th century.

Because of the state's rugged terrain and vast wildlands, it has become an international attraction for campers, fisherman, hunters, spelunkers, whitewater rafters, hang gliders, and hikers.


Since 1928, West Virginia has usually voted for Democratic presidential candidates when a new president was being elected, but the state did help reelect Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956 and Ronald Reagan in 1984. In 2000 and again in 2004, Republican presidential candidate, George W. Bush, won the state's 5 electoral votes. About half the the state's governors have been Republicans in spite of the strong leaning toward the Democratic Party. Much of this allegiance stems from labor union disputes in which Democratic candidates sided with the coal miners unions more than 75 years ago. West Virginians are generally very conservative in such issues as gun control, abortion, and same-sex marriage, but their professed views are often not reflected in the elections.

Elected Officials





Since the 1880s, bituminous soft coal mining has been the dominant industry. Since 1901 the United Mine Workers union has been a major presence.

Today, West Virginia is the second largest coal-producing state in the country behind Wyoming and accounts for about 15% of the nation's coal output. Coal generates a payroll of nearly $2 billion per year, and accounts for more than $3.5 billion annually in the gross state product. Most of the coal is burned in power plants to produce electricity, and some is used in the chemical industry.

West Virginia leads the nation in underground coal production, and is in first place in coal exports, with over 50 million tons shipped to 23 countries. The state accounts for half of American coal exports.

The coal industry provides 40,000 direct jobs in the state, including miners, mine contractors, coal preparation plant employees and mine supply company workers. Thousands more work in coal transportation inside and outside the state.

The state's Coal Severance Tax pays about $214 million a year to the state treasury; the mine owners pay an additional $70 million in property taxes annually.

See Also


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