There is an abundance of worthwhile material to explore when you visit the Rahall Congressional Archives House at the WVU Institute of Technology in Beckley.
Former West Virginia Congressman Nick Joe Rahall II represented West Virginia’s Third Congressional District from 1977 to 2015, serving under six presidents.
During that time, Rahall was a leader in Congress on mining issues and served as chairman of both the House Subcommittee on Mining and Natural Resources (1985-1993) and the Committee on Natural Resources (2007-2011). He championed regulations to support coal miners, and he helped enact legislation creating the Gauley River National Recreation Area and the Bluestone National River.
He was also the top Democrat on the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.
And a book could be written on his work with national and foreign policy related to the Middle East.
But, a good place to start at the Archives House might be with a black and white photograph of Rahall with U.S. senators Jennings Randolph, Mike Mansfield and Robert C. Byrd in June 1976. Before he was elected to Congress, Rahall worked in Byrd’s office, and the senator became a mentor for Rahall.
Former Congressman Nick Joe Rahall II addresses the crowd gathered to celebrate the opening of the Rahall Congressional Archives House at the WVU Institute of Technology in Beckley. Photo by WVU Tech University Relations.
The picture is displayed among other images, memorabilia, news clippings and documents that chronicle Rahall’s numerous contributions to national policy and state projects.
Rahall donated his papers to WVU Libraries and the West Virginia and Regional History Center in 2015. The collection, at more than 2,089 record cartons, is one of the largest in the Libraries’ holdings.
Shortly after WVU Libraries received Rahall’s papers, WVU established the Rahall Congressional Archives House at WVU Tech.
“This is not about my legacy; this is our legacy,” Rahall told a crowd of dignitaries and community members who gathered for the facility’s ribbon-cutting on August 2.
But those sharing the podium took turns touting his achievements.
“As we open the Rahall Congressional Archives, we are now fully recognizing and celebrating all the hard work Congressman Nick Rahall did for West Virginia and our country,” Senator Joe Manchin said.
Manchin noted that Rahall remains the youngest elected and, with 19 consecutive terms, longest-serving member in the history of the U.S. House of Representatives.
“From strengthening our transportation system to laying down the foundation for the New River Gorge’s designation as a national park, Congressman Rahall always fought for the people he so proudly represented,” Manchin said. “After his dedicated years of service to the Mountain State, it is wonderful to see Congressman Rahall’s legacy forever memorialized so his work can inspire future generations of leaders.”
“We are humbled and honored to house the archives of Congressman Nick J. Rahall II on the campus of WVU Tech because Beckley is his home,” WVU Tech President Ramon Stuart said. “Congressman Rahall always embraced his southern West Virginia roots, so it is fitting to plant his archives on our campus because this affords current and future generations the opportunity to enjoy Congressman Rahall's legacy and contributions to our region, state, nation and world.”
WVU Libraries Dean Karen Diaz believes WVU Libraries archivists are accomplishing much more than preserving history. She said the potential for learning is near limitless for those who delve into this vast collection.
“Congressman Rahall’s archives tell the stories of Southern West Virginia and its people, of public policy and the ways it shapes our lives and landscapes, and of the hard work of representative democracy,” Diaz said. “Congressman Rahall’s archives will continue to serve as a living legacy, providing master lessons in leadership and diplomacy, building a bridge from the past and inspiring our students to become the leaders of tomorrow.”
Other speakers at the dedication included U.S. Rep. Carol Miller, R-W.Va.; Gov. Jim Justice; and WVU President E. Gordon Gee. Several of Rahall’s former staff members, numerous current and former elected officials from across the West Virginia, higher education leaders from the state’s universities, former Gov. Bob Wise and former state treasurer John Perdue were among the guests.
Learn more information about the Rahall Congressional Archives House and collection.