House Speaker Rick Thompson presents the resolution to J.R. Clifford descendent Harry Stewart. From left are Delegate Charlene Marshall, Tom Rodd, Harry Stewart and Delegate Meshea Poore. (Photo courtesy of the House of Delegates)
CHARLESTON – The West Virginia House of Delegates enacted a resolution honoring West Virginia's first African American lawyer and pioneer civil rights activist, John Robert "J.R." Clifford, on Feb. 15.
The resolution noted Clifford's many accomplishments as an attorney, scholar and activist.
Delegate Meshea Poore of Kanawha County presented the resolution.
"As West Virginia's first African American attorney, J.R. Clifford brought about the most progressive state court decision in America of its time—the black schools must have the same school terms as white schools and their teachers must be paid the same," Poore said. "He dedicated his entire life and career to pursuing equality and was truly a remarkable person."
Clifford's descendent, Harry Stewart, was present at the resolution, which was sponsored by Poore and Delegates Charlene Marshall, Clif Moore, Tim Miley, Patrick Lane and Tim Armstead.
"The heroism of men like Clifford is inspiring a new generation to be proud of West Virginia," said the J.R. Clifford Project Director Judy Rodd. "It's great that Delegate Poore is bringing this to the Legislature and raising J.R. Clifford's profile in our state's history."
Marshall said the J.R. Clifford Project has done a great deal to educate West Virginians, students in particular, about Clifford's accomplishments.
"I am proud that the Legislature has been able to provide funding to help in that effort," Marshall said.
Tom Rodd, the J.R. Clifford Project Co-Director, said some of the state funding has paid for an educational coloring book about Clifford, more than 10,000 of which have been distributed to schools.
"It's very exciting to have the Legislature honor J.R. Clifford today," Tom Rodd said. "The Legislature has been very supportive of educating West Virginians about the work of J.R. Clifford. He was a real civil rights pioneer of national importance."