Selden W. Brannon

By Bob Weaver

Calhoun native Selden W. Brannon is remembered for dedicating nearly forty years of his life to teaching the blind children of the Mountain State.

The school celebrated 140 years in 2010.

His success story commences in a rooted Calhoun family, who supported his efforts to overcome early childhood blindness in 1912. Brannon was born and raised at Orma, son of the late Weaver and Ollie Spencer Brannon, he suffered an injury to his eyes when he collided with a student in the yard at the one-room Orma School at age six.

"Weaver Brannon made a living off his farm on Wolf Run," said grandson Duane Poling, raising and providing for his wife and six children.

After the ill-fated accident, Selden's father enrolled him in the Romney School for the Blind at Romney in 1923.

"My dad took him to Spencer to catch a special train that was
sent around the state to pick-up students," said sister Stella
Brannon Chenoweth (left with nephew Duane Poling of Grantsville)
the last surviving sibling, now 95, and living in Parkersburg.

"He was such a young boy to be taken away from his family and he was very homesick at times," Stella said, but he would come home on some weekends.

His family, brother Ottice Brannon, and sisters, Elva Poling Kerby, Mae Offutt, Ivah Campbell, all deceased, are well-known to the Calhoun community in the 20th Century, most of them were teachers or storekeepers.

Selden graduated from West Virginia School for the Blind in 1927 as valedictorian, returning to Calhoun County.

His entry into Glenville State College was doubtful. His father took him to meet with the school's president E. G. Rohrbaugh, who advised Weaver Brannon the school was not prepared to take a blind student.

Unable to accept the decision, Brannon pushed the college president to take his son on a trial basis for six weeks, agreeing to pay for a reader. With reluctance, Rohrbaugh enrolled Selden.

When Selden's father returned to the college to learn of his son's fate, President Rohrbaugh said, "Maybe you'd better send some more blind students." Selden's classmates helped him throughout his college career, not only with navigation, but with reading.

In 1931 he was graduated Magna Cum Laude from Glenville State.

The Brannon Clan in 1920 on Wolf Run, Orma

Front (L to R) Mae Brannon Offutt, Stella Brannon Chenoweth,
Jessie Spencer, Elva Brannon Poling; Back (L to R) Ottice
Brannon, Ivah Brannon, Selden Brannon, Weaver Brannon,
Ollie Spencer Brannon, Mary Spencer, Seldon Spencer

(Photos compliments of Stella Brannon Chenoweth)

He then received a Master's degree from West Virginia University in 1947, and later did graduate work at Duke University.

Selden spent 39-years as teacher and principal of West Virginia School for the Blind in Romney.

In 1950, he received the honor of being the only totally blind person chosen to attend the international convention for the blind in Oslo, Norway.

He edited the book, "Historic Hampshire," published in 1976 in commemoration of the bicentennial. When Hampshire Day was organized, he became the first Knight of Olde Hampshire.

He was selected alumnus of the year from Glenville State College in 1968 and was given the Distinguished West Virginian Award by two governors.

A former student, Beth Delawder recalls, "I always smile when I hear his name, what a kind, intelligent and honorable man he was."

After 91-years of overcoming, achieving and serving, Selden Brannon was returned to Calhoun in 1997 to be buried close his roots at the Orma Cemetery.

Selden Brannon after his retirement
Well-remembered Calhoun teacher Ivah Brannon, Selden
Brannon and Ottice Brannon, Calhoun and Roane County merchant.