Historical figures to be honored in Tucker

The West Virginia Humanities Council and the Tucker County Historical Society will honor two turn-of-the-century individuals at 7 p.m. Monday at Tucker County High School.

The event will pay tribute to the school teacher Carrie Williams and her attorney, J.R. Clifford.

In 1898, Clifford won a civil rights and education case before the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals. In Williams v. Board of Education, Clifford argued against the Tucker County Board of Education’s decision to shorten the school year for African-American students from nine months to five months, while keeping a full term for white students.

Clifford encouraged Williams, a teacher at what was then called the Coketon Colored School, to continue teaching regardless of funding. He then filed a lawsuit against the school board for her back pay. The court’s decision bolstered equal education rights for African-American students statewide.

It is noteworthy that the decision in Clifford’s victory in the Williams case occurred more than 50 years before the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case, and was one of the few civil rights victories in a southern state’s high court before the turn of the 20th century.

State highway officials will erect two roadside markers, one at the Tucker County Courthouse in Parsons and one at the site of the former Coketon Colored School, to describe the civil rights case.

Senior State Supreme Court Justice Larry Starcher will serve as master of ceremonies at the Monday event, which is part of the Sesquicentennial celebration for West Virginia. Historical presentations and music will round out the events.