BECKLEY, WV (WOAY) – Beckley Common Council Ward One representative Tom Sopher has been appointed to the West Virginia Humanities Council (WVHC) for a three-year term, beginning in July 2020.
The Humanities Council is a nonprofit corporation, not a government agency. It was created in 1974 at the encouragement of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Using public and private funds to provide grants and operate programs, WVHC is the leading organization promoting the humanities in West Virginia. From modest beginnings funded entirely by federal dollars, the council has grown to an annual budget of more than $1.5 million, most of which comes from public and private sources in the state.
The cornerstone of the council’s work is granted awards to educational institutions, museums, public broadcasting, historical societies, and others. Major educational activities undertaken by the commission itself include traveling exhibits, the enactment of historical figures, and periodic lectures. The annual Betsy K. McCreight Lecture in the Humanities features leading national scholars and authors, and the annual Charles H. Daugherty Award in the Humanities recognizes the contributions of individual West Virginians to the humanities.
Sopher has been president of the Raleigh County Historical Society (RCHS) since 2008. He was chosen as History Hero in 2018 by the West Virginia Division of Culture and History. He breathed life into what was a waning organization and helped restore programs and events at Wildwood House Museum. Sopher has been passionate about reclaiming property surrounding Alfred Beckley’s original mill site on Piney Creek. Due to his efforts, the site was placed on the National Registry of Historic Places in spring 2017.
Sopher spearheaded the establishment of a flourishing cartography club, one of the few in the nation. He has supported an aggressive historical marker program in the county and was instrumental in launching the highly successful O’Brien constitutional lecture series last year. He maintains donations of historical artifacts, ranging from clothing to documents to scrapbooks and photographs, all of which have been donated due to the interest in the RCHS, raised mainly through his efforts.
Sopher operates Best Fabric and Foam on South Fayette Street in Beckley. He is a native of Beckley and a graduate of Concord University.