Five New Additions to The Hawk Nest Tunnel Advisory Committee
Today Evening Star Productions welcomes five new members to our Advisory Committee: Ronald W. English, John P. David, Betty Dotson-Lewis, Billy Joe Peyton and Gerald Markowitz. As scholars, writers, spiritual leaders, community organizers and native West Virginians they bring great knowledge, experience and energy to The Hawks Nest Tunnel. We extend our greatest thanks to them for joining our team.
Ronald W. English
Ronald W. English was pastor of the First Baptist Church of Charleston from 1972-1993. Under his leadership, First Baptist became a Charter Member of the Religious Coalition for Community Renewal, establishing low income housing in downtown Charleston. English also founded the Black Heritage Cultural Series in Charleston, which was the first such project funded by the WV Arts and Humanities Council.
Prior to serving at First Baptist, English was Assistant Minister to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, GA. Rev. English offered the prayer at the funeral of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in April, 1968 and has lectured and written on African- American history, particularly on the life and work of Dr. King. In 1990 English traveled to South Africa with a delegation of African American leaders invited by Bishop Desmond Tutu to advocate for the release of Nelson Mandela.
English has moderated and produced public affairs programs for commercial and public television and authored op-ed articles for local newspapers. Currently, he is a certified adult educator/trainer, consultant in Diversity Management, and lecturer at Wheeling Jesuit University.
John P. David
Dr. John P. David is Professor of Economics and Labor and Chair of the Department of Social Sciences and Public Administration at West Virginia University Institute of Technology. He also serves as Director of the Southern Appalachian Labor School, a non-profit community development organization engaged in youth development, housing, and social justice issues.
Dr. David has written extensively on economic issues and is a contributing columnist for the Charleston Gazette. Most recently, he co-authored with Jan Young “Mannington to Upper Big Branch: The Promise Betrayed” in Appalachian Heritage. He was selected as a recipient of the Honorary West Virginian Award by former Governor Bob Wise, recognized as a Runner-Up Professor of the Year Finalist by the Faculty Merit Foundation of West Virginia, and received the 2008 Martin Luther King, Jr. “Living the Dream” award from the West Virginia Holiday Commission. He received his Ph.D. from West Virginia University.
Betty Dotson-Lewis is a West Virginia novelist and writer, whose work documents local and regional Appalachian culture and history. Her novels and articles capture the unique flavor of the mountains and people, through unedited stories rooted in oral history. Dotson-Lewis is the author of Appalachia; Spirit Triumphant (2004), Sago Mine Disaster; Appalachian Coalfield Stories (2007),The Sunny Side of Appalachia; Bluegrass from the Grassroots (2008), and the forthcoming novel Girl from Stretchneck Mountain. She is also a regular contributor to Daily Yonder: Keep it Rural Blog.
Dotson-Lewis has a strong connection to the history of Hawks Nest. A resident of Summerville, WV, she lives thirty miles from the site of the tunnel at Hawks Nest. Her house is located just over the knoll from the original Martha White Farm, home of the first graves. She has also been writing about the history of Hawks Nest for over ten years, in newspapers, blogs and novels.
Billy Joe Peyton
Billy Joe Peyton is a sixth generation West Virginian who received his B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. in History from West Virginia University. Peyton has worked as a public historian at WSWP-TV, a local PBS affiliate in Beckley, West Virginia, and for the National Park Service in Mississippi and West Virginia before joining the faculty at West Virginia State University in 2002. He is Associate Professor of History and Chair of the History Department there. Billy Joe has numerous local and regional publications to his credit, including entries in the West Virginia Encyclopedia and West Virginia History journal, as well as a local history book titled Charleston Then and Now. He has also worked as writer and historian on several documentary films, including Ghosts of Green Bottom, winner of a 2005 Bronze Telly Award. Billy Joe maybe seen in The 50 States series that airs on the History Channel.
Interest in the Hawk’s Nest Tunnel is personal for Billy Joe, because his father’s family lived and worked in Gauley Bridge during its construction. An uncle, Arthur Peyton, worked as an engineer on the project and testified before the House Subcommittee on the inadequacies of
tunnel ventilation. His testimony is immortalized in The Book of the Dead by Muriel Rukeyser.
Gerald Markowitz is Distinguished Professor of History at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the Graduate Center, City University of New York. As a historian and scholar he specializes in Public Health and American Social History, with a specific attention to the history of silicosis, and the role of industry in the development of public health and labor standards. He is the co-author of Deadly Dust, Silicosis and the Struggle for Workers’ Health, Deceit and Denial: The Deadly Politics of Industrial Pollution, and The Plague on All Our Houses: Lead Poisoning and the Conundrum of Public Health. Dr. Markowitz is the recipient of numerous grants from private and federal agencies, including the Milbank Memorial Fund, National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Science Foundation. He received his doctorate from the Department of History of the University of Wisconsin.