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History Alive! roster

Abigail Adams

A witness to and active participant in our nation’s birth, Abigail Adams is well known for her advocacy of women's rights, especially in education, and her opposition to slavery.  A valued confidant and advisor to her husband John Adams, the nation's second president, Abigail cautioned him that the Founding Fathers should “remember the ladies” in the new laws they would write for our young country. Together, they were the first inhabitants of the White House.

Portrayed by JoAnn Peterson of Kingwood.


Gabriel Arthur 

Doug Wood as Gabriel ArthurArthur is believed to be the first white man to see the Kanawha Valley while traveling with a band of Indians in 1674. He was sent with a partner and others from Fort Henry (present Petersburg, Virginia) to explore western lands and trade with the Indians. His partner was killed and Arthur traveled widely with the natives, apparently participating in raids in the Ohio Valley and elsewhere. During this time, he followed the Big Coal River to its mouth at the Kanawha River. Arthur and the southern Indians with whom he traveled were welcomed at the large Moneton Indian village at present St. Albans before returning to Fort Henry with a load furs.

Portrayed by Doug Wood of Hurricane



Nellie Bly (1864 – 1922)

JoAnne Peterson as Nellie Bly

Nellie Bly, adventurer, inventor, and ground-breaking investigative reporter was the pen name of Elizabeth Jane Cochrane.  In 1887, to be hired as a reporter with Pulitzer’s New York The World, she feigned insanity to get committed to a lunatic asylum with no guarantee of release. Her subsequent articles on the conditions and treatment of the “patients” led to improvements in the care for the mentally ill. In January of 1890, she bested the time of the fictional Phileas Fogg from the book, Around the World in Eighty Days.  Bly uncovered corruption, championed safe working conditions, was the voice for poor children and women, interviewed many well-known persons including Susan B. Anthony and Emma Goldman, participated in the Suffrage Movement, ran a steel manufacturing business which offered childcare and healthcare, and was the first female war correspondent on the Eastern Front during World War I.  View an interview on YouTube

Portrayed by JoAnn Peterson of Kingwood


Colonel Ruby Bradley

When Bradley retired from the U.S. Army in 1963 she was the most decorated woman in American military history. A native of Spencer, West Virginia, Bradley was captured by the Japanese in the Philippines in 1941 and was a POW until 1945. She continued her work as a nurse in the prison camp. She was named Chief Nurse for the Eighth Army in 1951 and supervised over 500 nurses in Korea. Bradley attained the rank of Colonel in 1958.

Portrayed by Becky Park of Charleston


Pearl S. Buck

KBorn in West Virginia, Buck grew up in China with her missionary parents, but never forgot her West Virginia roots. She received the Pulitzer Prize for her 1931 novel The Good Earth, and was the first American woman ever to be awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. She was also a humanitarian and social activist who was deeply concerned about the welfare of children worldwide.

Portrayed by Karen Vuranch of Fayetteville.304-575-3636  karen@wventerprises.com


Walt Disney

Though his name has become synonymous with the monumentally successful company he created, a young Walt Disney struggled to create an animation company in Chicago, Illinois and Kansas City, Missouri before moving to Los Angeles, California in 1923. After losing the rights to some of his early animated characters, he finally struck Hollywood gold with the creation of Mickey Mouse and received Academy Awards for two short films in the late 1920s and early 1930s. His ambitions in animation were finally realized with the 1937 release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which became, in its day, the highest grossing sound film of all time.

Portrayed by James Froemel of Maidsville


Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson (1824 – 1863)                       
Stonewall JacksonBorn in Clarksburg, Jackson was an orphan who became one of the most renowned names in military history. He is regarded as a tactical genius and a relentless battlefield commander. The men of the “Stonewall Brigade” were fiercely loyal to their leader. General Jackson was a devoutly religious man whose death by friendly fire was a crushing blow to Confederate hopes for victory.

Portrayed by Doug Riley of Tunnelton


Mother Jones
Karen Vuranch as Mother JonesThe family of Mary Harris "Mother" Jones immigrated to the US from Ireland hoping to escape famine and unemployment.  After marrying and moving to Memphis, a yellow fever epidemic killed her husband and all four children.  The great Chicago fire of 1871 destroyed her dress-making business and she spent the rest of her life helping organize unions, especially among coal miners.  She spoke at rallies throughout West Virginia supporting the United Mine Workers of America, and played an important role in strikes along the New River Gorge, Paint Creek and Cabin Creek, and during events before the Battle of Blair Mountain.
Portrayed by Karen Vuranch of Fayetteville.304-575-3636  karen@wventerprises.com


Theodore Roosevelt (1858 – 1919)

Theodore Roosevelt by Gene WorthingtonIn addition to being the 26th president, Theodore Roosevelt won the Nobel Peace Prize, led the Rough Riders in the Spanish-American War, served as governor of New York, authored more than 35 books, ranched in the Badlands of the Dakota Territory, lectured around the world and established some of our most beloved national parks. A strong advocate of the “life of strenuous endeavor” Roosevelt pushed himself to overcome a sickly childhood. The youngest president in our history, he championed progressive reforms and a strong foreign policy.

Portrayed by Gene Worthington of Fayetteville

Charles Schulz (1922 – 2000)

Schulz was a cartoonist best known as the creator of the Peanuts comic strip that featured Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Linus, and all the rest of the gang. A veteran of World War II, Schulz’s first Peanuts strip was published in 1950 in seven newspapers. At the time of his death in 2000 it was appearing in 2,600 papers around the world. Schulz recognized that comics were not just a medium for children. His ability to connect with people through a four-panel strip using dry humor, sarcasm, wit, and melancholy resulted in an ongoing daily narrative that lasted nearly 50 years. The popularity of his characters worldwide put them in demand for television specials, merchandise, movies, books, theatrical productions, and commercials, with NASA spacecraft named in their honor. View an interview on YouTube.

Portrayed by James Froemel of Maidsville


Bessie Smith

 As the most popular female blues singer of the 1920s and 1930s, Smith was the highest-paid Black performer of her day. Known as the “Empress of the Blues” by virtue of her forceful vocal delivery and command of the genre, her singing displayed a soulfully phrased, boldly delivered grasp of the blues. In addition, she was an all-around entertainer who danced, acted and performed comedy routines with her touring company. She was a staple of the “Chitlin’ Circuit” and throughout the Jim Crow South, and many of her tunes have been covered by various artists through the decades.

Portrayed by Doris Fields of Beckley


Harriet Tubman (1820 - 1913)
Harriet TubmanTubman was born into slavery in Maryland but escaped through the Underground Railroad in 1849. She then became the most famous leader of that network, aiding slaves in their escape to the free states and Canada. When the Civil War erupted, her underground experiences and knowledge of covert operations made her a valuable resource to federal officers. She served as a spy, nurse, scout, and guide for Union troops and was present at the ill-fated assault of Fort Wagner by the 54th Massachusetts in South Carolina. View an interview on YouTube.

Portrayed by Ilene Evans of Thomas


Mark Twain (1835 – 1910)

Mark TwainMark Twain is celebrated as one of America’s great authors and humorists. As the young country rapidly grew into an international power in the second half of the 19th century, Twain shared his observations through writing and speeches. His best known novels are The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, but his work includes nonfiction, magazine articles, monographs, and commentaries that provide interesting insight into the American story. Mark Twain was the pen name of Samuel Clemens.

Portrayed by Doug Riley of Tunnelton


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Most of our past and present History Alive! presenters have been interviewed by the West Virginia Library Commission. You can view videos of those interviews on YouTube.