CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginians will have an opportunity to view materials from the past and present of the West Virginia State Police at the State Capitol Complex in Charleston.
On Friday, the West Virginia State Police (WVSP) along with Governor Jim Justice and First Lady Cathy Justice joined the West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture, and History to unveil an exhibit marking 100 years of service of the WVSP at the Culture Center.
“The Culture Center has been very gracious in allowing us to take a lot of the materials that we have in our own from our archives and our own museum and bring them here and make a display,” First Sgt. Jay Powers, Historian for the WVSP said.
“It’s a display for everyone in West Virginia to see. A lot of times people don’t get a chance to make it to our archives.”
In March 1919 the WVSP was created in an extraordinary session of the legislature, according to Powers. Celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2019, the WVSP is the fourth oldest state police organization in the country.
“During that time period there were a lot of coal mine wars going on, a lot of labor disputes,” Powers said. “Governor John Jacob Cornwell at the time was really wanting to have some law enforcement agency that was not part of the labor union but also not part of the coal mine companies as well.”
The majority of the artifacts in the exhibit are on loan from the State Police Museum in Institute.
Hundreds of current and former members of the WVSP were on hand to check out the exhibit firsthand, that featured old guns, uniforms, motorcycles, and more.
“I am very proud of what I do,” Powers said. I am very proud of this organization and I am very proud of the storied history of this organization. We have retired members here, we have uniformed members here. Even when you leave this organization, you are still a trooper. When you retire, you are still a trooper. You will see that with the number of retired members who are here.”
Part of the ceremonies on Friday was unveiling of two items to commemorate 100 years including a Blenko Glass piece of a state trooper glass hat and a special painting. Both were being sold after the ceremony but they were in very limited stock.
The WVSP also honored the 41 fallen members since 1919. State Police Superintendent Col. Jan Cahill handed out special keepsakes to the families of fallen heroes at the ceremony while “Amazing Grace” played on the bagpipes and the fallen names were read aloud.
“What we wanted to do was make sure we honored those 41 members,” Powers said. “As part of that, we tried to contact as many people as we could that was still associated with those family members, we tried to reach out to people all the back to 1920 when our first member was killed.”
The exhibit, located in the State Theater gallery, will be on display through October 2019.