West Virginia Executive Summer 2014 - Page 92

[ real wv ] “The First 150” Celebrates Their Spilman Thomas & Battle Sesquicentennial with a Lesson in History By Michael Basile At Spilman Thomas & Battle, more than 250 team members across seven mid-Atlantic offices are pausing briefly to commemorate and celebrate the firm’s 150th year of delivering value to its clients. In both planning the future of the firm and counseling clients on reaching their goals, Spilman draws upon the strength and wisdom of its forbearers. More than two decades ago, then-partner Charles Stacy began a quest to record Spilman’s history before it was forgotten. The task was immense: research and write the history of a firm that began during the Civil War. Following Stacy’s passing, the firm turned to author Elizabeth Jill Wilson to finish his quest. With her completed manuscript in hand, the firm then worked with its longstanding partner, Bryan Boyd Creative Group, to edit, layout and design both the hardcover and paperback versions of the book. Together, they have produced “The First 150: Spilman Thomas & Battle’s History of Service,” a comprehensive look at why and how Spilman was formed. More than that, Wilson’s research has unearthed remarkable historical passages about the economic and social progression of the mid-Atlantic region. “The First 150” introduces to its readers some of the unique and intriguing characters who not only helped shape the history of Spilman but also the history of the region. Benjamin Harrison Smith President Abraham Lincoln appointed Spilman Co-founder Benjamin Smith as U.S. attorney. Smith’s work to quiet land titles in the newly formed state—providing clear titles to land and assuring legal ownership to purchasers—is credited with providing the foundation for local and regional economic development, leading 92 west virginia executive to a period of dramatic growth in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. His contemporaries recognized him as the premier land lawyer in the region. “The First 150” is a comprehensive look at why and how Spilman Thomas & Battle was formed 150 years ago. Edward Boardman Knight Reputed to have an encyclopedic knowledge of the law, Edward Knight served as a member of the West Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1872. He was the primary author of an article governing property taxes and voting rights; both issues are credited for the robustness of voter turnout to approve the constitution later that year. George E. Price George Price litigated many important cases throughout his career, not least of which was Maryland v. Virginia. Appointed by then-Governor Brooks Fleming, Price represented the State of West Virginia in a boundary dispute with Maryland before the Supreme Court of the United States. This 1912 opinion finally fixed the boundaries and markers of West Virginia. Robert S. Spilman, Sr. With a legal career spanning nearly 60 years, Robert Spilman, Sr. was what some considered the go-to lawyer in West Virginia in the first half of the 20th century. Perhaps most notably, Spilman was involved in the famous Red Jacket case, which pitted the union miners of Southern West Virginia against nonunion Red Jacket Consolidated Coal and Coke Company. The sometimes-violent dispute sparked the notorious Matewan Massacre and was at the root of the battle on Blair Mountain that was quelled by federal troops in 1921. Frederick L. Thomas, Sr. The second-longest-serving member of the firm, Frederick Thomas, Sr.’s legal work often involved representing corporations such as DuPont. One labor dispute in particular was highly publicized and highly charged: the DuPont Belle Works Strike. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Thomas’s representation of DuPont in this dispute resulted in important developments in labor relations. Hawthorne D. “Honey” Battle Honey Battle was a colorful character, known for having remarkable intelligence, integrity and wit and providing several of the more humorous tales in “The First 150.” Following his service in the U.S. Navy, Battle joined with West Virginia State Senator J. Hornor Davis in 1946 to form the combined Kanawha-Charleston Health Department. He then served as its first president. This is one of many leadership positions Battle held throughout his distinguished career.  Photography by Tracy Toler