Tribute to Garnett Pritt

This came from Frank Young. Charlotte Pritt would have been West Virginia’s first woman governor but was betrayed by Democrat leaders and leading that was now U.S. Senator Joe Manchin. Charlotte beat him in the primary and he then joined the Democrats for Underwood, her republican opponent in the general election.
From our friend, Charlotte Pritt.  I knew her father very well.  He and I crossed paths several times over the decades, seemingly at miscellaneous times, and for unconnected business and political affairs.  
But are those times maybe not so “miscellaneous”? Does fate bring what appears to be unconnected events together for a useful social purpose?  Only the Shadow knows ………………………….
We lost two good people this weekend.
—– Original Message —–

Sent: Sunday, September 09, 2012 9:26 PM
Subject: My Dad and my Hero Garnett Pritt passed away Friday night
Dear Friends,
My Dad Garnett Pritt passed away in my mother’s loving arms Friday night after a long battle with lung disease.  As a former President of United Mine Workers of America District 17 Local 1766 and an ardent activists for Justice, Truth, Equality and Freedom for all of us, my Dad even at the end was intent on casting one last vote for the candidates he believed in: President Obama and WV Gubernatorial candidate Jesse Johnson.  Dad must have known that his time was short because he asked several of us to get him an absentee ballot so he could support Jesse and Obama because they were for the people. Dad grew up politically aware and was active in the coal miner’s political action committee COMPAC for many years.
In addition to President of Local 1766, Dad also served as Chairman of his Mine, Health & Safety Committee where he took great pride ensuring the welfare of the people he worked with on a daily basis.  Some of the men in his local remarked that Dad gave the company hell in his insistence on enforcing the safety regulations in the mines. He tried to protect the miners from harms way as ardently as he protected his family and friends.
Dad literally had a genius IQ but because of the depression and his father’s early death, Dad was not able to attend college and officially become the great lawyer, teacher and philosopher that he really was.  Dad had read the New Testament more than 23 times but more impressive he lived the teachings of the Jesus!  Dad’s compassion for the hungry, the homeless, those unable to advocate for themselves left an indelible mark on my life and our family.  Dad was tireless in his pursuit of truth and justice and spoke out even when it was unpopular or dangerous to speak the truth.
My Dad taught me that to know the truth I couldn’t be a shallow thinker with my thoughts simply “skipping across the water.”  He taught me that I had to think deeply “diving until I hit the bottom to find the real source of truth.”  Dad taught me to feel with my heart and have compassion for those who could not speak for themselves: He used to say, “If God blesses you with a good mind and a healthy body, you must respect that gift by helping those who were not so blessed.”  My Dad taught me that I had to be the answer to someone’s prayer through acts of kindness and sincere concern.  He walked his talk.  Nearly every Thanksgiving, there was someone new whom Dad had talked with who had no where to go and no one who cared.  But Dad cared and then we did.  Sometimes they would stay a weekend, some a few months, and one stayed with us a whole year!
Dad taught us to think, feel, and act until we made the change that needed to be made to right a wrong or set the record straight.  An ardent Democrat, Dad supported those who tried to make a difference and forever molded my life to carry on his passion for truth and fairness.  Sometimes Dad would worry about my being an activist because he knew that activist don’t get hired for big paying jobs and sometimes they get blacklisted for their views.  He cautioned me about the drawbacks but when I said “Dad, I can’t help it.  It must be in my genes because even when I try to restrain myself when I see an injustice and I know that speaking up is only going to get me fired or in trouble, I simply can’t.  Dad, I guess we are models that are just “hard-wired” for social justice,” Dad just shook his head in agreement.
Dad was brilliant, funny, passionate and tireless in his love for my Mother, his family, WV and justice for the world.  His life was hard and challenging but rather than complain, he lived his life so that all of us could have a life with more opportunities and social justice.  I am no match for Dad but I am his daughter and I will do all I can to continue his legacy.  You can most honor Dad by casting the vote that Dad didn’t get to cast and by thinking deeply, feeling compassionately and acting locally and globally.
His service will be Tuesday September 11 at 1 pm at Long and Fisher Funeral home Sissonville.  Friends may call from noon until the time of the service at the funeral home.  A Celebration of Dad’s life will be held at the old Bonham Elementary School off of the Edens Fork Exit in Charleston immediately following the service.  You are all welcome!  Just like our Thanksgiving dinners, Dad would want to make certain that you left with a full stomach and knew that someone cared.

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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