Pillar of the Community
Between March 1, 1937 and February 7, 1938, the West Virginia members of Congress introduced four different commemorative 50-cent coin bills, but failed to get any of them approved. Of the four bills, two were for individual cities, one was for a county and one was for the State's 75th anniversary of Statehood.
Mercer County, WVA was the subject of the first of the four coin proposals. Mercer County is located in the southern portion of the State and shares a border with Virginia. The County was originally part of Virginia, but left with the rest of the state's Unionist counties when they broke away from Virginia soon after the start of the US Civil War.
The County was marking the 100th anniversary of its 1837 formation in 1937 and its County Court sought a coin to help defray its planned commemorative events. The coin's bill was introduced in the House on March 1, 1937, referred to the House Committee on Coinage, Weights, and Measures the same day and subsequently languished in committee, never to be reported out. (0 for 1)
Next up were the companion bills (i.e., matching bills in the Senate and House of Representatives) proposing a half dollar for Romney, WVA. Romney is one of the two oldest towns in West Virginia (the other is Mecklenberg / Shepardstown). It was created by an Act of the Virginia House of Burgesses in 1762. The 1937 half dollar was intended to commemorate the 175th anniversary of the town.
The bills were introduced in April 1937 and each was referred to the Committee responsible for coinage matters - the Committee on Coinage, Weights, and Measures in the House and the Committee on Banking and Currency in the Senate. Neither of the bills was reported out of their respective Committee and so neither was ever considered by the entire House/Senate. (0 for 2)
The third West Virginia-related coin to be proposed had a dual commemorative purpose: it was to mark the 180th anniversary of the birth of John Beckley and the 100th anniversary of the city's founding. John Beckley was the first clerk of the House of Representatives (1789-1797 and 1801-1807) and the first Librarian of the Library of Congress (1802-1807).
Beckley, WVA was named after John Beckley and was located on the land granted to Beckley by the General Assembly of the State of Virginia on January 20, 1795. The proposed 1938 coin was to mark the centennial of Beckley. Neither of the companion bills for the commemorative 50-cent piece, introduced in May (House) and June (Senate) of 1937, went beyond its referral to the appropriate House or Senate Committee; neither was reported out for full consideration. (0 for 3)
The last of the four West Virginia commemorative coin proposals of the 1930s featured a pair of companion bills calling for a 50-cent coin to mark the 75th anniversary of West Virginia's Statehood. The bills were introduced in January (House) and February (Senate) of 1938 for an anniversary to occur in 1938; West Virginia joined the Union on June 20, 1863. As mentioned above, a number of Virginia's NW counties broke away from the rest of the state in 1861 as a result of Virginia seceding from the Union and joining the Confederacy; the breakaway counties petitioned for statehood soon after.
The bills suffered the same fate as those that went before them - namely, referral to the appropriate Committee for coinage matters, but no further action that would lead to a floor vote in either chamber of Congress.
And so, West Virginia members of Congress went 0 for 4 during the 1930s in terms of their attempts to get a commemorative half dollar struck to celebrate an aspect of the state's history. Congress did pass legislation in September 1962, however, to authorize a commemorative medal for West Virginia's Statehood Centennial. The Mint struck examples in bronze, silver, and platinum in 1963. So, the state has not been completely shut out!
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