Arch Moore and Wally Barron two crooked governors

Arch Moore died yesterday January 7, 2014.

Arch Moore and Wally Barron

This event is credited with swinging the election for governor from Democrat James Sprouse to Republican Arch Moore. November 3, 1968, a day before the election, Arch Moore’s helicopter crashed while landing at the Hamlin High School football field in Lincoln County, West Virginia

The pilot was apparently attempting to avoid power lines when the helicopter hit a flag pole and spiraled tail first, 30 feet to the ground, landing atop a car. The day of the election, every newspaper in the state and every television station showed pictures of the crash scene and Moore being wheeled from the ambulance.

A few years later, Moore went to prison for extorting a bribe of $573,000 from a coal company owner in return for awarding 2.3 million dollars in workers compensation benefits to the coal company. One of my best friends in high school was the bag man in that deal—he plea bargained and testified against Moore in exchange for 6 months of weekend jail time.

The prison sentence also resulted from Moore pleading guilty to mail fraud for accepting $100,000 in illegal campaign contributions and three counts of tax evasion for not reporting $62,000. There were allegations of federal tax evasion as early as 1969. He was indicted in 1976 for extorting money from a savings and loan company for which he was found not guilty.

Moore was reported to have laid in the back seat of his car and handed illegal campaign money out the window to a Logan County elected official. He also was known to have sat in his car behind an incinerator and pass campaign cash to a fellow conspirator. The Charleston Daily Mail, a Moore supporter for years, finally admitted in an editorial that “there can be no denying one simple and sad fact: Arch A. Moore Jr. is a crook.”

After the Buffalo Creek coal sludge flood that killed 125 people, Moore said the worst damage done that day was to the image of West Virginia. He settled a 100 million dollar state lawsuit against Pittston Coal Company for one million dollars. The federal portion of the clean up cost was 9.5 million dollars.

Moore was the most dishonest West Virginia governor who was ever caught, but the most creative criminal governor was Wally Barron. Wally bribed the head juror in a trial in which Wally was being tried for bribery. “Pass all” as my friends in Nigeria would say.

“They” didn’t learn with governors and convicted felons Arch Moore and Wally Barron that it is better to wait and see which prison the guy goes to before building statues and naming streets, courthouses and schools after him. You have got to love that bust of Moore in the Culture Center. He sure thought the place was his. The first event that took place in Archie’s bunker was closed to the peasants. He shut it down like an Argentine dictator and held his daughter’s wedding. It was by invitation only. The public was shut out. One daughter was convicted of cocaine distribution and was rumored to have escaped a murder indictment–while Arch was in prison. The other daughter is now in the U. S. Senate.

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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