SUNNY CAL JOURNAL - Clay's "Man In Black" Raised Hairs On Head, Charged With Murder

By Bob Weaver

The real wild and wooly days within the Clay WV culture were continuing to fade in the 1970s.

About 1973 in Clay a "man in black" decked head-to-toe was a wandering street person, a persona that shouted-out "beware."

A Clay native Eugene Beasley was a dedicated ambulance driver at the Carl Wilson Funeral Home, where I was employed as a mortician. Eugene was a fine young man, likely on my list as among the best people I have met in my lifetime.

Eugene responded to a backwoods residence built on a steep hillside, the caller said a woman had fallen off a porch, a long way down.

When Eugene arrived he encountered a large number of intoxicated people, including her husband, the "man in black." While he prepared the woman for transport, he observed the crowd was in a big fracas. The woman died shortly.

After police investigated, they charged the "man in black" for his wife's murder, and a trial was scheduled at the Clay courthouse. Eugene was subpoenaed as a witness, along with a number of people present at the scene.

The night before the trial, the "man in back" called Eugene at the funeral home, threatening him if he said anything bad about him - he would die. Needless to say, it made Eugene more than nervous.

Dianne and I went to the courthouse to observe the trial, and Eugene showed up too.

A large number of witnesses gave testimony, one saying, "I know it was in tater diggin' time," while another said, "It happened in ramp diggin' time."

Meanwhile, we heard harmonica music coming from an anteroom, playing "Folsom Prison Blues."

The judge was disturbed by the music making and sent the baliff to quiet the provocation.

Would you know, it was Eugene playing the tune.

I recollect that the "man in black" was found not guilty, but I'm not sure.

Eugene admitted to me later, "I was out of my mind," the musical exercise likely performed to relieve anxiety.