Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition


Southern Regional Conference of the
National Lawyers' Guild

May 31-June 2, 2002
Photos by Janet Fout

OVEC staffer Janet Fout joined the southern regional conference of the National Lawyers' Guild, held May 31-June 2, 2002, in Charleston. The National Lawyers Guild is made up of attorneys and others across the country "who work to maintain and protect our civil rights and liberties in the face of persistent attacks upon them; and who look upon the law as an instrument for the protection of the people, rather than for their repression."

The meeting included a labor history tour organized by Jim Kirby, a Charleston attorney. Participants met Professor Paul Rakes (a history teacher at WVU-Montgomery) at Hawks Nest State Park. He discussed the worst labor disaster in national history--the deaths of many workers from the construction of the tunnel at Hawk's Nest. Unsuspecting workers were exposed and died from inhaling deadly particles of silica (glass). The group also toured Kayford Mountain, where folks talked with relatives of Larry Gibson and then viewed mountain massacre for themselves. The lawyers who toured Kayford were appalled by what they saw and will join us in working to stop mountain range removal.

First stop--the famous West Virginia "Mystery Hole" on West Virginia Route 60.

Attorney Jim Kirby listens as Larry Gibson explains how mountaintop removal has devasted the mountains around his ancestral home of Kayford Mountain. The family cemetery is situated atop the mountain. One gravestone ironically reads: "Earth hath no sorrow that heaven cannont heal." The mountains and streams around Kayford have been alter forever by this high extraction, greed-driven mining practice. 

Activist lawyers, including our own Jason Huber (second from the left) enjoy the breathtaking view (unfortunately for workers who constructed the tunnel--it was indeed breath-taking in all senses of the word). 

Guild members listen to Professor Paul Rakes from Oak Hill, WV, highlight the history of Hawks Nest tunnel and deaths caused by silicosis (breathing glass particles). 

Elizabeth McLaughlin and Jim Kirby at Hawk's Nest State Park.

On June 2, 2002, members of the southern regional conference of the National Lawyers Guild raise their fists in solidarity opposing mountaintop removal on a recent visit to Kayford Mountain. 
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