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Community honors late BOE member Bill Raglin

CHRIS DORST | Saturday Gazette-Mail
Bill Raglin served on the Kanawha County Board of Education for 19 years and served the communities of West Dunbar, Institute and Pinewood for decades longer. On Friday, the community center in West Dunbar was renamed in his honor. His son, Bill Raglin Jr. (right), and four of his grandchildren were on hand to unveil the new name.
CHRIS DORST | Saturday Gazette-Mail
Guests socialize during a rib luncheon inside the William J. Raglin Community Education Center before the ceremony unveiling the building’s new name. Relatives came from Maryland, Virginia and Ohio for the event.
CHRIS DORST | Saturday Gazette-Mail
About 100 people were on hand for the ceremony naming the William J. Raglin Community Education Center in West Dunbar. Dennis Davis, Raglin’s replacement on the Board of Education, is on the far left.
CHRIS DORST | Saturday Gazette-Mail
Mary Brown (right) and Joyce Spencer have worked in the community center for decades. It opened in 1956 as Shawnee Elementary School.

Years ago, the Shawnee Community Education Center in West Dunbar had a litter problem. There were no garbage cans in the adjoining park and trash piled up. So Bill Raglin, a longtime community member who would serve 19 years on the Kanawha County Board of Education, got a few 50-gallon barrels for the park to use as trash cans.

Problem solved? Not exactly. People kept stealing the barrels to use at their houses for burning trash.

Raglin, though, had a solution.

“There was a cement guy around, and he got him to pour a little extra cement in the bottom of each can.” William Raglin Jr., Bill’s son, recalled as he walked by the community center park Friday.

Suddenly, the barrels were too heavy to steal — and people had a place to put their trash.

Raglin Jr. and his family were in West Dunbar on Friday as the community center was renamed the William J. Raglin Community Education Center after his father, who died in November at age 76.

The center was named after Raglin because he was a constant presence there.

“You could find Bill down here on Saturdays and Sundays, and that’s the truth,” said Dennis Davis, who replaced Raglin on the Board of Education. “He’d call you, and I’d say, ‘Where are you?’ And he’d say, ‘I’m at the school; it’s Sunday, after church.’”

There were about 100 people on hand to eat ribs and honor Raglin for his 19 years on the school board and his decades of working to improve life in the unincorporated communities of West Dunbar, Institute and Pinewood.

They remembered Raglin as an early leader in the push for technical and vocational educational that is now commonplace in West Virginia and across the country.

“He was for education for everybody, and he was ahead of his time because, years ago, when he pushed, it wasn’t favorable for vocational. He said everybody’s not meant to go to college,” said Walter Greenhowe, Raglin’s longtime colleague on the Sub Area Planning Committee. “Now it’s a big thing, community and technical colleges. He was pushing it years and years ago.”

Kanawha County Schools Superintendent Ron Duerring said he saw Raglin as a father figure, but that 16 years working together on the schools were not without their friendly disagreements.

“When things were going good, my name was Ron, or it was Super,” Duerring said, “but when he was mad at me, it was Superintendent Duerring. So I knew I was in trouble.”

Kent Carper, president of the Kanawha County Commission, had similar experiences.

“He’d call me Commissioner Carpenter when he was mad at me and, the rest of the time, he’d call me Ken. My name’s Kent, but that’s OK,” Carper said. “Bill Raglin was a big man, and I don’t mean in size. He was big in this community.”

Greenhowe, as president of the Sub Area Planning Group, worked with Raglin for decades to bring things like street lights, sewer systems and trash collection to the unincorporated communities.

Raglin realized that a lot of local businesses were located there because, being in unincorporated communities, they didn’t have to pay local business and occupation taxes.

“We’d go to the plant and say, ‘Look, you’re part of our community, you don’t pay B&O taxes, so that’s why you’re here, I know. So why don’t you give back to this community you’re in?’” Greenhowe said. “And so they give us financial support, give us free asphalt to help pave our streets.”

William Raglin Jr., who now teaches middle school language arts and social studies in Dayton, Ohio, specifically remembers his father as being instrumental in getting street lights for the area.

“He always found money to fund these projects. He knew how to do that. Whoever it was, he knew where to go,” Raglin Jr. said. “Whatever he could do, he always wanted to help somebody.”

Those tasks now have gotten tougher with him gone.

“Now, its been so hard,” Greenhowe said, looking up to the sky. “I say, ‘Man, why you leave me down here all by myself?’”

Reach David Gutman at or 304-348-5119.

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