Berkeley County, West Virginia Biography of Judge J.M. WOODS


         Judge J.M. WOODS was an attorney located at Charleston, West Virginia, a member of the law firm of Price, Smith & Spilman. He was educated in the Private Academy of the late John Diffenderger of Martinsburg, West Virginia; in the Martinsburg High School; Pantopís Academy, Charlottesville, Virginia; Washington and Jefferson College; and Washington and Lee University, from where he graduated from in law, class of 1892. Was Prosecuting Attorney for Berkeley County from April to November 1892, serving the unexpired term of U.S.G. Pitzer (deceased). Was elected Judge of the 13th Judicial District of West Virginia for 12 years and was serving his second term when he resigned to practice his professional at Charleston.

         During his office as Judge he was asked to try the case of the Armed March of the Union Miners, at Charles Town. Some two or three hundred of these marchers were indicted in the Circuit Courts of Logan and Kanawha counties — some for treason, some for murder and for several other offenses. A change of venue was granted to Jefferson County. Four cases were tried there. The first trial was that of William Blizzard, one of the officials of the United Mine Workers, on an indictment for treason. His trial began on April 24, 1922, and terminated in a verdict of acquittal on May 27, 1922. The next man tried was Rev. J.E. Wilburn on a charge of murder. He was convicted in the second degree and sent to the penitentiary. John Wilburn, son of Rev. J.E. Wilburn, was tried next, and he was also convicted of murder in the second degree and sent to the penitentiary. In both of those cases, applications were made to the Supreme Court of Appeals for writs of error but they were denied. The next trial was that of Walter Allen on an indictment for treason and he was convicted and sentenced to the penitentiary, but admitted to bail pending his application to the Supreme Court of Appeals for a writ of error. Allen forfeited his bail and has never been heard from since. When the case against Frank Keeney, President of District No. 17 of the United Mine Workers, was called, an application for change of venue was made and granted and the trial was moved to Morgan County. But when called for trial there in 1923, the state was allowed to enter a nolle prose qui and that case was dropped. By consent of counsel for the state and for the miners, the cases were all then transferred to Greenbrier County. Those were perhaps the most important cases Judge Woods had to try during his incumbency and it brought him into prominence throughout the state and the nation.


    Submitted by Marilyn Gouge and extracted from History of Berkeley County, West Virginia, 1928.

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