Back in my hey-day with this newspaper, I often was assigned to cover different types of public meetings in which there frequently were disagreements among school board members, city officials, county commissioners and even political executive committee people - back when the Executive Committee was a key component to the outcome of many local elections.
At one point or another, I covered Logan, Man, Chapmanville, and Gilbert town council meetings. In addition, I reported Logan County Commission meetings, Logan Board of Education meetings and Logan County Park Board meetings when that piece of government existed. Some may recall that the Park Board was co-funded by the Board of Education and the Logan County Commission, and that its primary function was to take care of the county's athletics fields and basketball arenas, which included all county high schools and junior high schools.
I remember several meetings in which members were not always in agreement, which by the way, is the way government should be operated in my humble opinion. By that, I simply mean that when public officials are always in agreement, the likelihood of a fox being in the hen house is highly likely. Of course, this type reasoning doesn't always apply to every government body - at least not at all times.
You certainly didn't have to worry about that much back in the late 1970s. I remember Commissioners Dr. Mark Spurlock and Dr. Vernon Mullins practically coming to blows at certain County Commission meetings. They actually were friends, I think, but one would never know it from their public confrontations.
I also recall Logan City Council meetings in which anger among its members was ever present when in 1979 former Logan Police Chief Tony Cristiana decided to fire a longtime radio dispatcher, Pat Adkins, who worked from a wheel chair because of being stricken with polio when she was a child.
That was the beginning of the end for the former All-American linebacker, who had starred at the University of Miami. It was he who started his climb up the political ladder with a job at the Logan County Dog Pound, after finding his way to Logan via a lady friend. One might say he was being "groomed" by certain politicos to be the sheriff of Logan County.
Man, did he ever screw up that possibility. Oh, well, that is a story for another day. Drugs, deceit, a motorcycle gang, rape and murder will just have to sit on the back burner for now.
For today's purposes, I choose to relay one of just many former Logan City Council meetings in which politics was so inherently evident that it is almost unbelievable, but yet it paints a picture of the times that once existed in the once bustling City of Logan. It was both an emotional and political battle to control what essentially was houses of prostitution, illegal liquor and gambling parlors within Logan's city limits that was on the local agenda. Here is the story from the dark pages of the late 1930s, not too long before renowned former Logan County sheriff Don Chafin left Logan for greener pastures in Cabell County.
"You're a damn liar," shouted Councilman R.B. Hayes to Dr. S.B. Lawson, a longtime respected doctor and elected Logan County official, who at the time was president of the Logan County Court. The emotional outburst came at a special session of the council in which it was to decide what businesses in the city would receive licenses to sell beer.
The Logan Banner described the meeting as being one in which "tempers overcame reason." Dr. Lawson, charging that Councilman Hayes was "dictated to by Don Chafin, an ex-convict and political whip," leaped across the room and struck the wiry, outspoken councilman in the mouth after Hayes called him a liar.
In a two-hour period that the newspaper described as seeming "like an eternity," the council rejected nine of 15 beer license applications and then were told that their actions in rejecting the applications would be taken to court.
Dr. Lawson, aged county court President, former Logan mayor and seven times councilman of Logan, disrupted the meeting with his sensational charges against the city council and invited "outside" anyone who wished to take issue with him.
Councilman Hayes, recovering from the good doctor's punch, came up from the council table with a back-drawn fist ready to return blow for a blow, when another councilman grabbed his arm and spectators held back Dr. Lawson, therefore nipping in the bud a brawl of what the newspaper called "the old-fashioned variety."
After the two men had adjusted their ties and Hayes had adjusted to a place at the table considered safe to speak, he denied ever having any connection to Don Chafin or any "politician" and asked for Lawson to prove his statement.
"The mayor has a letter which definitely links you with the ex-political boss of Logan County," the irate physician stated.
"Let the mayor give that letter to the press for publication," countered Hayes.
Continuing his 45-minute unprecedented speech and describing Lawson's comments as "outrageous" "disgraceful" and "ungentlemanly," Hayes ended his oratory with Dr. Lawson by making him fighting mad again. With his face described as "becoming pink" with emotion, Lawson said that "the actions of the present council would be a disgrace to Russia."
Lawson said he had learned that a councilman was renting one of the "lowest dives" in Stratton Hollow and that the councilman had tried to usurp the mayor's power and coerce him by wanting to withhold his salary and that "if the setting of the mayor's salary was left up to you men, God pity the poor mayor."
In closing his attack upon the council, Dr. Lawson said: "And if you want to hear more, I can tell you, and if you want more with me, I will see any of you downstairs."
Councilman Hayes simply said, "I'll respect your age, doctor."
With an ordinance giving the city council power to refuse any city licenses applied for by businesses known to be permitting or having permitted gambling or any immoral acts on their premises, the council voted to refuse the following businesses their beer licenses - The Smokehouse; the Sugar Bowl; Union Hotel; Washington Hotel; Frank Hotel; Ideal Lunch; Crystal Coffee House; Silver Stein Beer Garden, and the Colonial Hotel.
A few days after this meeting, Mayor W.B. Johnson fired patrolman Everett Justice after he had raided the Smokehouse Restaurant, which was described as a "race horse gambling den."
"I did not fire Patrolman Justice for making a raid on a horse race place," said the mayor. "I fired him for his attitude, coupled with his act of having turned against me without cause."
About a year later, state police descended upon Logan and the surrounding area and "cleaned up" the community by taking into custody 27 people for organized gambling and illegal sale of whiskey. The Logan Banner said two plainclothesmen had spent a week in the city garnering information and that after swearing out warrants had swarmed the Smokehouse, arresting two operators of establishments and confiscating "a large number of gaming devices, including two telegraph tickers."
Altogether, the state troopers raided several places in Logan, nine in Black Bottom and one in Cherry Tree. Besides the Smokehouse, raids were conducted at the Terminal Lunch, Columbia Caf, Crystal Caf, Green Lantern Night Club, Guyan Night Club, Theodore Farrio's Place, Mary Burgoyne's Place, Coal Branch Lunch, Bertie's Place, Silver Front Beer Garden, Union Beer Garden and the Delta Hotel.
So what did the chief of police of Logan have to say about the raids, you might ask?
"I don't like the kind of law enforcement we had in the city of Logan on Friday night," said Chief Jeff D. Watts. "The raids were inspired by leaders of the George C. Steele faction of the Democratic party. The object sought to be gained was political - pure and simple."
"The leaders of the Steele faction, I am informed by certain individuals, had recently visited some of the places raided, and solicited campaign contributions for the coming primary election.
"Upon being refused," Chief Watts continued, "threats were made to 'turn the town upside down.' "
Watts said the idea in the minds of the Steele followers was that the places raided would be intimidated to a point where they would be glad to "shell out" when again called upon for contributions.
"This kind of government is not good for the city of Logan. It is petty spite work and pernicious politics which certainly has no place in good government," Watts explained. "There has not been a murder committed for a number of years in Logan, and I believe that stands out as proof that this community is well above the average so far as law and order is concerned."
Perhaps the following statement by the police chief can better be understood by others than by myself:
"I do not believe the citizens and taxpayers of Logan appreciate being raided, arrested and carried off to state police headquarters to be fingerprinted like common criminals," Watts concluded.
Gosh, I so wish I had a time machine.
Dwight Williamson serves as magistrate in Logan County. He writes a weekly column for HD Media.