Names for sale

An excerpt from Sam’s Branch Essays, a book I am working on.

I despair at the commercialism that causes ball parks and bowl games to be named for whatever company puts up the money.  Poor Watt Powell.[1] It’s getting as bad as public radio and television having “corporate sponsors”—-some a little short of criminal in their own operations and/or tearing the environment limb from limb.

In the spirit of incorporating everything once holy in America, I offer the following possibilities:  Counties and towns in West Virginia could seek “corporate sponsors” and endure such name changes as, Cabell County, Toyota Putnam County, Arch Coal Logan County, and Wampler Moorefield. Mudsuck and Big Ugly will have a hard time finding a buyer. West Virginia could become The National Coal Association West Virginia. This could catch on.

Actually the corporate naming is just a continuation of the tradition of naming towns and counties after robber barons.  In the old days companies were often dominated by one aggressive and greedy capitalist. Thus towns got named Davis, Elkins, Huntington and Itmann (for I. T. Mann) and streets for Camden and Ruffner. Towns like Junior were named for robber baron children. In the past we didn’t charge for the free advertising.

However, we must be careful–the legislature might try to continue the tradition of giving away the store. In keeping with the super tax credits and the decision to pay NASCAR for giving them free advertisement on license plates, the legislature will probably offer to pay the National Coal Association for the privilege of connecting their name to West Virginia.  After all “West Virginia is Coal” you know.
[1] The name of an old baseball park named for a man who organized the first baseball teams in the Kanawha Valley.


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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