On May 23rd at 7 p.m. at the Cottrill Opera House in Thomas, Friends of Blackwater will be hosting a talk on notable court cases in Tucker County’s history. Guest speaker Tom Rodd is a former lawyer and state Supreme Court clerk, and director of the J.R. Clifford Project. The event is free and there will be refreshments.
One of the key cases the talk will cover is Williams vs. Board of Education, which centered around the Coketon Colored School, located just outside of Thomas. Carrie Williams (pictured below), the teacher at the school, sued the local Board of Education over the fact that African American students were given a significantly shorter school year than white students. She was represented succesfully by J.R. Clifford, one West Virginia’s first African American attorneys. The case went all the way to the state Supreme Court and set the precedent that all students in West Virginia must receive the same education, regardless of race.
Another exciting case from Tucker County’s early history is notable more because of the actions outside the courtroom than anything said before a judge. While attending a trial in Parsons, longtime business rivals Robert Eastham and Frank Thompson got in a shootout, leaving Thompson dead. Both men were influential in the county, and fallout from the gunfight divided communities, as well as resulting in another controversial court case.