Introduced Version House Resolution 22 History

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(By Delegates Poore, Marshall, Moore, Miley, Lane and Armstead)




Recognizing and memorializing John Robert ‘J.R.’ Clifford as the first African American lawyer in West Virginia.

    Whereas, J.R. Clifford was born on September 13, 1848, son of Isaac and Mary Kent Clifford, in the Eastern Panhandle near Moorefield, Grant County, (now) West Virginia; and

    Whereas, J.R. Clifford enlisted in the United States Colored Troops at age 17 and fought for the Union in the Civil War; and

    Whereas, J.R. Clifford attended Storer College in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia after the war and became a schoolteacher and principal in Martinsburg, West Virginia; and

    Whereas, J.R. Clifford started publishing the “Pioneer Press” in 1882, the area’s first newspaper for African Americans and the longest running newspaper for African Americans of that era; and

    Whereas, J.R. Clifford was admitted to the West Virginia State Bar by the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia in 1887, the first African American lawyer so admitted, before establishing his law practice in Martinsburg, West Virginia; and

    Whereas, J.R. Clifford won a landmark civil rights and education case before the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia in 1898, which recognized the equal educational rights of African American students and teachers in West Virginia, over fifty years before Brown v. Board of Education was decided by the United States Supreme Court; and

    Whereas, J.R. Clifford helped found the “Niagara Movement” in 1906, which became a cornerstone of the civil rights movement in the 20th Century and forerunner to the NAACP. With the aid of W.E.B. DuBois, J.R. Clifford organized the first American Niagara Meeting at Storer College at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia; and

    Whereas, J.R. Clifford died on October 7, 1933, in City Hospital in Martinsburg, ending a life devoted to the equal rights and education of African Americans on the battlefield, in the classroom and the courtroom; and

    Whereas, John W. Cromwell, writing in the Journal of Negro History said of J.R. Clifford: “He helped to shoot off the shackles from four million slaves and cement this Union on the bloody battle fields during the war of the sixties and holds an honorable discharge in proof of it”; and

    Whereas, J.R. Clifford lived by the motto of The Pioneer Press “Here shall the press, the people’s rights maintain, unawed by influence, and unbribed by gain”; and

    Whereas, The life of John Robert ‘J.R.’ Clifford is a model to be admired and emulated by all Americans and West Virginians and his lifelong accomplishments should not go unnoticed; therefore, be it

    Resolved by the House of Delegates:

    That the life and accomplishments of John Robert ‘J.R.’ Clifford, gentleman, soldier, scholar, first African American lawyer in West Virginia, civil rights pioneer, activist and West Virginian be remembered and memorialized; and, be it

    Further Resolved, That the Clerk of the House of Delegates forward a certified copy of this resolution to the J.R. Clifford Project, 501 Elizabeth Street, Room 3, Charleston, WV 25311.

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