Gandhi, Schweitzer, and Jesus: Excerpt from Imagonna:Peace Corps Memories

I should have Imagonna self published in about a month. It will then be available on

Gandhi, Schweitzer, and Jesus

Student days at West Virginia University (WVU) were a major influence in my decision to volunteer for the Peace Corps. At WVU, I was active in Wesley Foundation, the Methodist student center. Hunting through some old files I found a speech in which I hoped that students coming to Wesley Foundation would, “Be the kind of radical that Christ was and lend sanity to our society.” I encouraged them to: “Ask your fellow citizens if it is right to pollute our streams and air, if it is right to strip off the tops of mountains. …Is it right to endanger the health of every living creature and plant by placing radioactive hazards in the atmosphere, or for one man to live in economic splendor while others starve?” I asked them to ponder what Christ meant when he told the rich young ruler to sell all he had and give it to the poor.

The St. Andrews Methodist Church at home in St. Albans, West Virginia, and Wesley Foundation expanded my appreciation of human diversity. Out of all this, Albert Schweitzer became one of my heroes. In Nigeria I learned of Schweitzer’s clay feet, something common in idols. William Minor, my philosophy professor at West Virginia University, rounded it all out. I came from his classes with Gandhi as one of my heroes. Years later I learned that Gandhi and I had the same birth date. Gandhi was murdered in 1948 when I was twelve years old and before I even heard of him. Too many of my heroes have been murdered.

About two months before I started learning to make Sidewinder missiles, I wrote this in my journal: Just this minute I have finished reading a work of spiritual and literary art. I have just finished a book by Kahlil Gibran called “The Prophet.” This book ranks second only to the recorded words of Christ in spiritual wisdom. I went to Nigeria an idealistic believer, but came back much less so.

About Sam's Branch

I joined the Peace Corps in 1961 as West Virginia’s first volunteer. Go to to order my book Imagonna: Peace Corps Memories. I am the eighth generation of my family born in the Big Coal River Valley of West Virginia. My father and grandfather were underground coal miners. I have a chemical engineering degree from West Virginia University (WVU). After training to make sidewinder missiles, I joined the Peace Corps and taught chemistry and coached the track team at a secondary school in Nigeria. Since that time, I was WVU’s first full time foreign student advisor and worked in urban outreach, organic farming, construction labor, and high school teaching. I recently retired from the board of directors of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy (, and recently retired from the board of directors of the West Virginia Kanawha State Forest Foundation ( I am still on the board of the Labor History Association and the West Virginia Environmental Education Association and recently joined the board of the West Virginia Civil Liberties Union. I am active in the campaign to stop the destructive practice of mountain top removal strip mining in the Appalachian Mountains. You may contact me at or my blog samsbranch.wordpress.
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