By KATE COIL
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Legendary McDowell County natives from the past and present are the focus of a new book by a local author.
Authored by Bluefield Daily Telegraph Senior Editor Bill Archer, “Legendary Locals of McDowell County” focuses on figures from the county’s past and present. Archer was approached by Arcadia Publishing to do a book focused on individuals important to local history.
“This is the third book I have written about McDowell County,” Archer said. “The first book titled ‘McDowell County, West Virginia,’ became one of the fastest selling titles for the Images of America series within a couple of months and continues to sell very well. It was originally published in 2005.
“Arcadia developed the ‘Legendary Locals’ concept about two years ago. This format is a lot more text driven. The publisher approached me earlier this year to write a book on local legends of McDowell County.”
Archer said the book is intended to present local history in a captivating way.
“I love McDowell County history,” he said. “I love history. I read history and I check out documentaries on history. Often times, I’m lost because history can be very dry if you only go point by point. If you can inject some excitement into it, people will pay attention and it will be more palatable to them. We are giving readers something they are interested in.”
The book contains six sections looking into the settling of the county, servicemen and women, the coal industry, the county’s diverse ethnic background, modern newsmakers, and other famous figures from the county’s past.
“Typical of any project, you may start with an outline at the beginning, but it has to be adaptable,” Archer said. “I’m pleased with the way it fell together. It was a fun project to work on. I started this past January and submitted the draft in early August.”
Archer said one of the stories in the book that particularly captured his interest was that of Lance Cpl. Julius C. “Corky” Foster who walked 404 miles in 1967 to show support for his fellow soldiers fighting in Vietnam.
“I didn’t know about Corky Foster, though I should have at the time,” Archer said. “He was a Marine reservist who was so upset by the opposition to the Vietnam War he walked all the way from Welch to Camp Lejeune. That story is fitting given the county’s appreciation for patriotism.”
Another story Archer said he found intriguing was that of a World War II nurse and McDowell County native Lt. Sara Blanch Vance who was killed in action in 1944 when the army hospital she was working at was being shelled.
“I think the Sarah Blanche Vance story is amazing, too,” Archer said. “She was a U.S. Army nurse from Iaeger who was killed in action in Italy. The story really personalizes World War II. You just see how much fate plays a role in combat. She stepped outside the hospital just for a moment and was killed. My dad, who was a combat veteran of World War II always said there are no atheists in a foxhole.”
Archer said there were many people whose support made the book possible.
“I’ve dedicated the book to Tom Hatcher, the late mayor of War, who was a good friend and a strong advocate for history in the region. It’s also dedicated to all the people of McDowell County,” Archer said.
“This truly was a joint effort. It started, really, with Darryl Hudson, the Daily Telegraph publisher, who was a strong supporter of this book as well as Editor Samantha Perry and Assistant Managing Editor Charles Owens, who is a McDowell County native.
“I owe a lot of thanks to my wife Evonda for proofreading and revising. She is my true partner and works harder than I do. I also owe special thanks to Ray Glover who took a lot of time, especially on Sunday evenings, to scan the pictures. Looking at the book with Ray for the first time and seeing the published images, we both had a lot of pride in what we were able to assemble.”
“Legendary Locals of McDowell County” will be on sale on Jan. 14, 2013. Hearthside Books, in Bluefield, will host a book signing with Archer from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Jan. 19.
— Contact Kate Coil at email@example.com