Way back in 2003, two “Blackwater heroes,” Attorney Kitty Dooley and Supreme Court Justice Larry Starcher, partnered with FOB Board member Tom Rodd to launch the J.R. Clifford Project. The goal was to celebrate and publicize the story of John Robert Clifford (1848-1933), West Virginia’s first African American attorney.
In the 1890s, Clifford represented the Tucker County schoolteacher Carrie Willams, who taught in the “Colored School” in the Town of Coketon at the head of the Blackwater Canyon, which is where the friends of Blackwater office is located today. Clifford won a landmark court case that protected the school terms and teacher pay for African American students in post-Civil War West Virginia.
Over the years, Dooley and Starcher and Rodd have criscrossed West Virginia, doing dozens of programs that tell the Clifford/Williams story and celebrating them as “Blackwater heroes.” They are all volunteers, and their service to the cause of racial justice is something to be proud of.
They have helped Friends of Blackwater create many great publications about Clifford (and we have a lot of our coloring books for folks who are interested!) – as well as several cool historical markers.
This year Friends of Blackwater celebrated the Clifford Project at Kitty Dooley’s 60th birthday party and at a “roast” for Larry Starcher. We love Larry and Kitty, and we thank them for their selfless dedication to the cause of human betterment and justice!