Morgantown to San Francisco

An excerpt from my new book Morgantown to San Francisco, available on

While running for the West Virginia House of Representatives in 1952, Robert Byrd said that he was no longer a member of the Klan. As a West Virginia University student in 1956, I heard Congressman Byrd give a speech at Morgantown’s First Baptist Church. Byrd pounded a Bible with his fist to illustrate that like an anvil, it had withstood the hammers of fascism, communism and such.

After the speech a man in the back of the chapel made a statement about the KKK. Byrd replied and admitted he had been a member of the Klan. He said that the Charleston Gazette had exposed this to try to ruin him. He went on to say that he was, “proud to have been a member of the Klan,” I heard him say that. Byrd had joined the Ku Klux Klan in 1942 and held the offices of Exalted Cyclops[1] and Kleagle.[2] Strange aside: Byrd was one of two West Virginia legislators to witness the first execution in the electric chair at Moundsville prison.

[1] Each local chapter, or Klavern, is led by an Exalted Cyclops.

[2] Recruiter

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.
This entry was posted in Books, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s