It All Started in West Virginia

By Ralphine Major

“I am a product of the coalfields of West Virginia, where I was born in Dehue, Logan County.  The combination of time and place could, in itself, explain why I grew to be a political and fiscal conservative.  Growing up through the Great Depression in a depressed part of the country, I saw a lot of need that influenced me to become careful with a dollar.  Thus, conservatism characterized my service as a government official as well as in my personal life.” —Wallace Dwight Kessel

Focus readers may recognize the name “Kessel.”  For many years, he was a large part of Knoxville’s business and political life.  The opening words appear in a fascinating record Dwight Kessel prepared for his family in an effort to condense 90 plus years of his life.  Kessel also poses several intriguing “What if?” questions about events that happened in his life, such as:  (1) “What if we had moved somewhere other than Beckley, West Virginia; (2) What if I had gone to a school other than DUKE University as a civilian and joined the World War II Navy V5 program.  (I was sent back to DUKE in V12A—a substitute program.)  The war was winding down and the Navy took the majority of the V12As and sent us to Bainbridge, Maryland Boot Camp; (3) What if Congressman Joe L. Smith from Beckley (1944) had not told Dad that he had a second alternate opening for the Naval Academy.  (The principal failed the physical, the first alternate failed the written exam and I passed both and went to the Naval Academy.); (4) What if I had decided to stay in the Naval Academy instead of resigning in my second-class year (college junior).”

Pictured is the house at 182 Dehue, West Virginia, in 1930 where Wallace Dwight Kessel was born and lived for 13 years.  The family’s new Pontiac is in front.  The framed photo once occupied a prominent place in Kessel’s office in the City-County Building in Knoxville, Tennessee.  It was a quiet reminder of his early beginnings in the coalfields of West Virginia.  (To be continued)

Words of Faith:  Matthew 6:34 (KJV) is a favorite scripture of Dwight Kessel’s: “Take therefore no thought for the morrow:  for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself.  Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”

 

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