This is my personal family photo and
one of the best examples of aviation photography taken in
our area. You may have seen this photo published elsewhere,
but you never learned of the story it possessed:
I wont get into a long story
of being adopted as a newborn, but I did meet my Bio
family in my mid 20s. My fathers side were all from
Webster County. The Hamricks practically owned the county.
While few of them were wealthy by a long shot, they
still managed to live some pretty exciting lives because they
were born with what I call "the spark":
A need to learn and try new and different things. This
is in my DNA and the puzzle fits perfectly. For instance:
My father built his first plane in the late 50s, rode
Harley's, and even skydived in his 60s, just as
THIS PHOTO IS ABOUT MY UNCLE ORAL, MY FATHERS OLDEST
His name was O. R Hamrick, the
oldest of the 5 Hamrick brothers. He was one of the early
aviators in WV. He was also the manager of the Clarksburg
Airport while still in his mid 20s. He was such a skilled aviator,
that his job was flying the "National Commander"
airplane, one of the finest private aircraft in the
state, and arguably the entire United States at the
time. The owner of the National Commander was Louis Johnson,
famous founder of Steptoe & Johnson law firm. Johnson
was National Commander of the American Legion at the time, (1932-33)
and would later become Secretary Of Defense during WWII mostly
because he was the chief fund raiser for Harry S. Truman's
1948 presidential campaign. He lived in Clarksburg as
did my Uncle. This airplane was "an event"
everyplace it landed in 1931. Not only was aviation relatively
new in the day, but many West Virginians had never seen
an airplane like this right in their own backyard.
As a side note, my Uncle
flew the plane (and others) to Canada many times to pick up
Booze during prohibition and transport it back to Clarksburg.
Naturally, all of the local authorities were in on it
and so my Uncle was pretty free to do his job without much
Oral, with his cousin as copilot
took off from Clarksburg in Nov of 1932 to pick up Louis Johnson
in Wash DC and bring him home so that he could cast his ballot
for the US elections. The weather was possibly marginal
and let's face it, you pretty much flew by the seat
of your pants in 1932. Crossing the mountains between
WV and Virginia, the plane went down, possibly due to
icing, and both pilots were killed instantly.
For the next three days, the crash was front page news in
every newspaper in WV and beyond. (I know, I archived
Here is just one front page from
Huntington WV. Click on the newspaper and you will
be able to read the article.
They say that every family
has one special story. This is mine.
|This is me and my father, Harold
Hamrick before he died. He came to visit and I took
this photo and superimposed his mustache on to me just to
show the resemblance. Life gets complicated. Make peace
AN INTERESTING CONNECTION
families have interesting connections. The same family can have a
rich side, and a poor side. This was the case of the Hamricks.
About 95% of the Hamricks in America originated in Webster County West
Virginia. To this day, you will see the Hamrick name everywhere. An
interesting thing I've learned about the Hamricks is that they were all
intelligent. Even if they never passed 6th or 7th Grade, they all
had what I call "the Spark". This allowed them to become
successful no matter what they did. Success can mean many things.
It can mean you worked hard and provided for your family but was never
without what you needed in life. It can also mean that you
managed to do even more, and become wealthy. There were two basic
splits in the family tree. One became wealthy, while the other did OK
by anyone's standards. For instance: The statue of the
Mountaineer on the Statehouse lawn? That was modeled "Rimfire" Hamrick
from Webster County. A well know Hamrick in Charleston was Dr
Hamrick, who's mansion stood on Fort Hill for all to see. (his
sons are doctors also). They claim "it's all Relative in WV".
This is very true, at least for the people who were here for many
generations. I can personally connect with every Hamrick in
America today. How you say? Because the same Hamricks that came
to the country in the 1700s are the same Hamrick line today.
It took me 50 years to discover that I had another locally famous relative in town.
Lenard Riggleman was the President of Morris Harvey College, now the University of Charleston.
The Hall and dormitory is named after him today. He had a great influence on the college.His mother was Harriet Hamrick of Webster County.
My father and his parents on the right.
Riggleman's mother and family on the left.