SUNNY CAL JOURNAL - 2003: Who Will Hand Out Plaques, Now That A. James Manchin Is Gone

No Other WV Politico Has Yet Mastered Giving Plaques And Trickets

By Bob Weaver 2003

Undoubtedly, he was West Virginia's most colorful politician, ever.

Delegate A. James Manchin died at age 76 yesterday morning of a heart attack.

Rotund, outrageous and verbose, Manchin made his mark one way or another with the citizens of West Virginia in a career that spanned over 50 years.

He had served as Secretary of State and State Treasurer, a job he lost through impeachment for mishandling investment funds, but not stealing them.

It would be few West Virginia households, that upon a search could not find some kind of certificate of honor, memento or plaque personally bestowed upon a citizen of the dwelling at some time or other.

Then there was that hat - a fedora, which he gave away.

Calhouners will first recall A. James coming to the county nearly 40 years ago as the "REAP" director, collecting old junk cars from hollows and roadways. A. James carried a scythe on his shoulder, demonstrating his war on junk, climbing on top of rusted vehicles pounding them with a sledge and making eloquent speeches about West Virginia.

It was a created political job, which to him was the most important job in the world.

I got a plaque or certificate from A. James myself, when I did the Heimlich Maneuver on a senior citizen in a restaurant, the woman ejecting a bolus of meat from her choking windpipe.

The accolades and praise from him, overwhelming and embarrassing, saying "This man is truly an American Hero."

Then I got another patriotic award, I think, for breathing, or something like being a voter.

Not long ago I was in a house not far from Chloe, and hanging on the wall, a Manchin parchment, right beside a framed portrait of John F. Kennedy.

Manchin told story after story of growing up in the tiny town of Farmington, a coal camp.

He was known for his strong command of the English language and had a penchant for oratory and extemporaneous speaking. None of his floor speeches were scripted.

He could quickly size up his audience, small or large, and tell them exactly what they wanted to hear.

I can hear him now, making a speech about crossing over to netherworld, saying good-bye to "the wonderful state of West Virginia" and hello to heaven.

St. Peter will have to say "James, calm down now. There are no voters around here."

But maybe we should give him a plaque for his casket, to take with him.

I will withhold most of my A. James stories until after the funeral, and then I'm sure I'd have his after-death permission to pass them on for your edification.