West Virginia

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West Virginia
Capital Charleston
Nickname The Mountain State
Official Language English
Governor Jim Justice, R
Senator Shelley Moore Capito, R
(202) 224-6472
Senator Joe Manchin, D
(202) 224-3954
Population 1,789,000 (2020)
Ratification of Constitution/or statehood June 20, 1863 (35th)
Flag of West Virginia Motto: "Montani semper liberi" (Mountaineers are always free)
Alternate flag
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."

The state Constitution of West Virginia, like all of the other 50 states, acknowledges God or our Creator or the Sovereign Ruler of the Universe. It says:

Since through Divine Providence we enjoy the blessings of civil, political and religious liberty, we, the people of West Virginia, in and through the provisions of this Constitution, reaffirm our faith in and constant reliance upon God and seek diligently to promote, preserve and perpetuate good government in the state of West Virginia for the common welfare, freedom and security of ourselves and our posterity.


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 -- a predominantly mountainous area where slavery was not widespread -- 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 1,844,128 as of July 2015.[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. The State Fossil is the Jefferson's giant ground sloth (Megalonyx jeffersonii).

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 49,736 as of July 2015[2] 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 the Democratic Majority Leader, the Exalted Cyclops 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 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 Democrat 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 Democrat-controlled state. Much of the allegiance to the Democrats in West Virginia stems from labor disputes in which Democrat 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.[3] In the 2016 elections, the GOP held all of its previous gains and made new ones in the State Senate and took three statewide offices.[4][5]

The Republican-controlled legislature has made several business-friendly and small government reforms, including making the election of judges nonpartisian,[6] banning abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy,[7] legalizing concealed carry without need for a permit,[8] repealing the state's prevailing wage law,[9] and enacting a Right to Work law.[10][11] The latter four 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.

Elected Officials

As of 2018.





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.


  1. West Virginia. U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved October 2, 2016.
  2. Charleston city, West Virginia. U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved October 2, 2016.
  3. 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.
  4. The Latest: GOP maintains majority in West Virginia Senate. Miami Herald (from AP). November 9, 2016. Retrieved November 9, 2016.
  5. McElhinny, Brad (November 9, 2016). W.Va. Republicans celebrate Trump win and GOP gains. wvmetronews.com. Retrieved November 10, 2016.
  6. Nonpartisan election of judges becomes law in WV. The State Journal. June 8, 2015. Retrieved September 18, 2016.
  7. 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.
  8. Gutowski, Stephen (March 8, 2016). West Virginia legalizes concealed carry without a permit. Fox News. Retrieved September 18, 2016.
  9. UPDATE: Lawmakers override Tomblin prevailing wage veto. WSAZ (from AP). February 12, 2016. Retrieved November 8, 2016.
  10. 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.
  11. Mattise, Jonathan - AP (July 1, 2016). Cigarette tax hike, other West Virginia laws taking effect. The Logan Banner. Retrieved September 18, 2016.