Kanawha County attorney, troubadour, actor and entertainer George Daugherty, perhaps best known by his stage name, the Earl of Elkview, died Sunday at age 86.
A trial lawyer in the Charleston area since 1958, specializing in medical liability cases, Daugherty said in a 2009 Daily Mail interview that he made a conscious effort to explore life outside of work in the mid-1960s, and began auditioning for, and appearing in, Kanawha Players and Charleston Light Opera Guild theatrical productions.
In 1973, he became a regular on the Capital City Jamboree country music show, televised statewide, where he initially played ukelele and a musical saw, and sang self-composed songs, many of them humorous, with titles like “It Takes a Snuff-Dippin’ Woman for a ‘Baccer Chewin’ Man.” It was then that Daugherty, who lived in Elkview since age 4, bestowed upon himself the title “Earl of Elkview” to help separate his identity as a lawyer from that of an entertainer.
Starting with its first performance in 1983, Daugherty co-hosted “Mountain Stage,” National Public Radio’s long-running live performance radio show, during its early years. Since then, he logged more than 3,000 performances across West Virginia and most of the United States, as well as numerous performances in Ireland.
While on stage, Daugherty wore his beliefs on his sleeve — and his hat, shirt, and guitar, which were festooned with American flags, outlines of West Virginia, anti-mountaintop removal stickers and pro-live music patches. His repertoire included a number of patriotically themed numbers, and songs about the beauty of America, West Virginia and the people who live there.
In 2003, Daugherty made an unsuccessful bid for the Democratic nomination for Secretary of State. During the primary, he became friends with Ken Hechler, who won the race, and campaigned with his former opponent during the general election, accompanying Hechler on the guitar as Hechler sang his self-penned song “WV Is Always Free” at campaign stops.
Daugherty occasionally played with the Elkview area bluegrass band Hillbreed, and in recent years, performed as a part of the O’Daugherty Family band, which included family members George, Sallie, Tom and Devin.
A graduate of West Virginia University, Daughtery served in the Army during the mid-1950s.
In 2009, after Daugherty moved to Dunbar, the City Council added a new honorific to his title, officially declaring him to be the Duke of Dunbar.
Since realizing he had a problem with alcohol and becoming involved in a program in the late 1970s to re-assume control of his life, Daugherty had been an approachable, welcoming source of advice and encouragement for many in the Kanawha Valley’s recovery community. In 2013, the West Virginia State Bar appointed him the first director of its Lawyer Assistance Program for attorneys struggling with addiction.
In a 1991 interview with the Charleston Gazette-Mail’s Sandy Wells, Daugherty described a sort of resurrection he experienced after engaging the recovery process.
“I can sum it up best this way,” he said. “If God had said to me when I was 46, ‘I’m going to take you at noon today,’ I would think, ‘God, you gave me a dirty deal. Things were so tough. You didn’t treat me right.’ But if He were to take me this morning, I would say, ‘It’s been a wonderful trip, God. Thank you!’ ”