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Gov. Beshear To Speak At Coal and Rail Centennial Program

Gov. Beshear To Speak

At Coal and Rail Centennial Program

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear has confirmed he will participate as a featured speaker for the Harlan County Coal and Rail Centennial Celebration slated to take place August 25, 2001, at the Harlan County Courthouse. Beshears involvement with the historic event, which marks the 100-Year Anniversary of the first commercial shipment of coal by rail from the hills of Harlan County, was spurred by the Governors keen interest in the historical significance of both the coal and rail industries throughout the Commonwealth. Beshear will be joining a panel of speakers at the Harlan County Courthouse on Thursday, August 25, including state legislators, who are each expected to share their praises for the positive economic and social impact the coal and rail industries have had upon the area.

Im truly honored to be a part of this historic Centennial event that celebrates the history of the coal and rail industries in Harlan County, Beshear said. Judge Joe Grieshop, the Harlan County Historical Network, and many others deserve recognition for highlighting these industries and the direct impact they have had on the lives of so many Kentuckians over the last hundred years. As Governor, I have pledged my support to both industries throughout my administration and will continue to do so because of their importance to the Commonwealth.

Beshear will be speaking during the official Harlan County Coal and Rail Centennial program that will begin at 5 p.m. on the front steps of the Harlan County Courthouse. The public is encouraged to attend. Also joining Beshear for the program will be 30th District KY Sen. Brandon Smith, 87th District KY Rep. Rick Nelson, 84th District KY Rep. Fitz Steele, and 94th District KY State Rep. Leslie Combs. 90th District KY State Rep. Tim Couch has also been invited to speak. Harlan County Historian Dr. James Greene III will present the keynote address. Local dignitaries such as Harlan County Judge-Executive Joe Grieshop, Harlan City Mayor Danny Howard, and Southeast Community and Technical College President Dr. W. Bruce Ayers will also take part in the program. Ayers, who is the Chairman of the Kentucky Coal Academy Board of Directors, will serve as the Centennial programs master of ceremonies.

Prior to the program will be a coal miners appreciation soup bean dinner at the courthouse with Bluegrass band Cumberland River providing entertainment. The dinner, which is being funded by donations from coal support companies, will get underway at 3 p.m. The Harlan County Fiscal Court will host a legislative reception in honor of Governor Beshears visit at 4 p.m. at the Harlan Depot. The days festivities will end at The Depot at 7 p.m. with a Railroad History Evening sponsored by the Harlan County Cooperative Extension Agency.

Larry LaFollette, president of the Harlan County Historical Network, the group organizing the Centennial Celebration, said Beshears involvement emphasizes understanding of the importance of celebrating local history, and in the case of Harlan County, the significant role played by both the coal and the rail industries in making Harlan County the special place it is.

We are most honored that Gov. Beshear is participating, LaFollette said. Having the Commonwealths Head of State in attendance validates the importance of the Centennial Celebration, and also displays to our hundreds of coal miners that their hard work and dedication throughout the decades has not gone unnoticed.

Smith, who co-chairs Kentuckys Energy Committee, said he was looking forward to sharing the historical day with members of the states coalfield communities.

Its exciting to see enthusiasm for the coal and rail industries, as well as enthusiasm and interest in our history, bring people to our district for this important date, Smith said. Harlan County has incredibly rich history thats inundated with the influence of the coal and rail industries. This should be a memorable date to be shared by all.

Nelson said the Centennial Celebration was not only a commemoration of 100 years of coal, but a good opportunity to recognize the states coal miners who have propelled the mining industry. Nelson recently sponsored House Bill 269, which declared the third week of August as Coal Miners Appreciation Week.

By commemorating 100 years of coal in Harlan County, we are also recognizing the hard work of our coal miners through the decades and the many sacrifices made by their families so that our region, our state, and our entire nation can benefit from the powering energy of coal, Nelson said. Im looking forward to taking part in the program on Aug. 25. Im a big history buff, myself, and can appreciate the value of the coal and rail industries.

Steele said coal mining had been the signature industry of The Commonwealth and was glad to see a celebration evolve to recognize the industrys impact.

The coal mining industry is one of the founding industries of The Commonwealth, Steele said. 100 years of coal in Harlan County has proven that its a vital and sustaining industry. This is an important day for community members to come out, and I strongly encourage them to do soThe coal industry has employed hundreds of thousands of people, it has fed and clothed hundreds of thousands of our children, and it has also helped provide education for our people. August 25 will be a day in Harlan County for the community to show their gratitude for this industry.

Combs said while the Harlan County Coal and Rail Centennial Celebration is a wonderful way to reflect upon the two industries past contributions, she said she also hoped the event will draw attention to the industries future, particularly coal mining.

Coal mining is our past, its our present, and its definitely our future, Combs said. 100 Years of Coal is proof that its been a sustaining industry for our people, and I believe the coal mining industry will continue to sustain us for at least the next 100 years.

The Harlan County Coal and Rail Centennial Celebration is being held on the exact date, 100 years ago, that the first commercial shipment of coal was hauled out of the area. On Friday, August 25, 1911, a steam locomotive pulled L amp; N coal cars #64,326, 64,506, and 65,506, out of the Wallins Creek Coal Company Mine in Terrys Fork. LaFollette described August 25, 1911, as a watershed day in the history of Harlan County.

Volumes have been written detailing the significance of the coal industry in Harlan County, and rightly so, LaFollette said. It is no less important for us to be mindful that without the railroad, much of the coal in Harlan County would remain landlocked to this very day. The development of the Harlan County coal fields is tied directly to the expansion of the railroad. Together, these two industries have played a decisive role in the economic, political, social, and cultural development of Harlan County. Therein is so much of Harlan Countys history and the stories of its people lived out.