|Nickname||The Mountain State|
|Governor||Earl Ray Tomblin, D|
|Senator||Shelley Moore Capito, R |
|Senator||Joe Manchin, D |
|Ratification of Constitution/or statehood||June 20, 1863 (35th)|
|Motto: "Montani semper liberi" (Mountaineers are always free)|
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
From 1928 through 1996, West Virginia usually voted for Democratic presidential candidate when a new president was being elected, but the state did help reelect Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956 and Ronald Reagan in 1984. Since 2000, it has voted for the Republican presidential nominee.
From its founding in 1863 until 1870, the Republican Party dominated West Virginia. From 1871 until 1896, the Democrats dominated, and then again from 1896 until about 1932, the GOP dominated. After that, West Virginia became a solidly Democratic-controlled state. Much of the allegiance to the Democrats in West Virginia stems from labor disputes in which Democratic candidates sided with the coal miners unions during the Great Depression. However, since 2000, there has been a slow but strong shift to the GOP in West Virginia politics, starting on the presidential level, and slowly shifting to the federal level and then the state level. The 2014 election clearly demonstrated this shift, as the GOP made large gains, winning a U.S. Senate seat, the entire Congressional delegation to the U.S. House for the first time since 1921, and winning majorities in both houses in the state legislature.
The Republican-controlled legislature has made several reforms, including making the election of judges nonpartisian, banning abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy, legalizing concealed carry without need for a permit, and enacting a Right to Work law. The latter three bills were enacted over the Democrat governor's veto.
West Virginians are generally very conservative in such issues as gun control, abortion, and same-sex marriage. When the Democratic Party was dominant, their elected officials were slightly more conservative than the national party.
- Sen. Joe Manchin (D)
- Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R)
- Rep. David McKinley [R, WV-01]
- Rep. Alex Mooney [R, WV-02]
- Rep. Evan Jenkins [R, WV-03]
- Governor Earl Ray Tomblin (D)
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.
- U.S. Census Bureau
- Willis, Derek (November 24, 2014). Election Was Rough for Democrats. It Was Worse for West Virginia Democrats. The New York Times. Retrieved September 17, 2016.
- Nonpartisan election of judges becomes law in WV. The State Journal. June 8, 2015. Retrieved September 18, 2016.
- Eyre, Eric & Nuzum, Lydia (March 6, 2015). 20-week abortion ban to become W.Va. law; Senate overrides Tomblin veto. Charleston Gazette-Mail. Retrieved September 18, 2016.
- Gutowski, Stephen (March 8, 2016). West Virginia legalizes concealed carry without a permit. Fox News. Retrieved September 18, 2016.
- Horowitz, Carl (February 26, 2016). West Virginia Enacts Right to Work Law over Governor’s Veto. National Legal and Policy Center. Retrieved September 18, 2016.
- Mattise, Jonathan - AP (July 1, 2016). Cigarette tax hike, other West Virginia laws taking effect. The Logan Banner. Retrieved September 18, 2016.