West Virginia Club

Athens High School Golden Horseshoe Award Winners

Since 1931, more than 15,000 West Virginia students have received the Golden Horseshoe Award in recognition of their knowledge of West Virginia history. Each year, thousands of eighth graders across the state take the Golden Horseshoe examination, and more than two hundred are West Virginia Club Pin inducted into the prestigious Golden Horseshoe Society.

A listing of inductees has been compiled by the WV State Department of Education in a database that can be found at the West Virginia Archives and History website.  The information in the database was extracted from Golden Horseshoe programs, 1931-2007. A few additional names were found in the state superintendent's reports. Programs for the years 1943 to 1946 were not located. These names were provided by the State Department of Education.  No program could be found for 1941.  Because the information was taken directly from the programs, there may be errors in spelling.  (WV Department of Education)

Knights and Ladies of the Golden Horseshoe Society

The names of students who attended public school in Athens and who were inducted as either a Knight or Lady of the Golden Horseshoe Society are found below. Click on a highlighted name for photographs and additional information if available.

1931 - 1945 1946 -1960 1961 - 1975 1976 - 2011
1931  Mary Lee Martin 1946  Names not available 1961  Otis Mann 1977  Thomas Burton
1932  Baxter McNeer 1947  Ruth Hardy 1961  Rose Thornton 1977  Max Fezer
1934  Christie Houchins 1947  Harold Fletcher 1962  Glenn Reed 1978  Shari Finkelman
1935  Benny Reed 1947  Arbie Dransfield 1962  Suzanne Hartman 1978  Debby Hill
1936  Harry Crawford 1947  Katherine Dews 1962  Kenny Robertson 1978  Marla Klingensmith
1937  Elsie Brenaman 1948  Paula Bengert 1963  Carolyn Cunningham 1978  William Stafford
1938  Joe Marsh 1948  Janie Reed 1963  Debra Pennington 1979  James Sutphin
1938  Elwood McGuire 1948  Peggy Wells 1963  Mark Plummer 1979  Ann Geiger
1938  Leota Hutchinson 1949  Hawey Wells Jr. 1965  Larry Austin 1979  David Burton
1939  Charlene Keaton 1949  Fred Sisk 1965  Charles Fields 1979  David Poling
1939  Madge Vest 1949  Roseclaire Kirby 1966  Jared Butcher 1979  Chris Thompson
1939  C. Young 1950  Betty Hodges 1966  Paul Butler 1982  Melissa Geiger
1940  Joyce Toothman 1950  Wilma Kessinger 1967  Pam Payne 1982  Mary Jarrett
1940  Lorraine Sisk 1950  Carol Compton
1969  Johnny Reed 2005  Kathryn Alvarez
1941  David Klingensmith 1951  Virginia Alvis 1970  Jana Walls 2011  Seth Green
1941  Nancy Grimm 1951  Elizabeth Hight 1970  Susan White 2011  Lindsey Masters
1942  Walter Klingensmith 1952  Suellen Ferrell 1971  Jeffery Johnson  
1942  William Holroyd 1952  Shirley Wiley 1971  Nancy Gadd  
1942  Margaret Scott 1952  Ruth Clark 1972  Ted Thornton  
1943  Mary Klingensmith 1953  Lynn Robinson 1974  Cheryl Kennedy  
1943  Marjorie Scott 1953  Robert Kinzer 1974  Rebecca Montgomery  
1944  Calvin Grimm 1953  Wade Hash 1975  Daniel Bell  
1944  Annola Wells 1953  John Price    
1945  Pat Brenaman 1954  Jack Hickok    
1945  Elizabeth Maupin 1954  Billy Hodges    
1945  Dorothy Wells 1954  Tanannah Whitt    
  1959  Sandy Smith    
  1960  David Baxter    
  1960  Nancy Duling    
  1960  Lannie Carter    


Special Recognition of Mr. Dorsey Martin

Many of the above winners will recall Athens faculty member Mr. Dorsey Martin, who prepared them for the Golden Horseshoe test.  Mr. Martin is shown with 12 of his winning students in a 1955 AHS Trojan yearbook photo that bears a caption that reads in part:  “Since 1940 Athens High School has taken first place in the county-wide Golden Horseshoe Contest.  Mr. Dorsey Martin has (to date) coached all of the Golden Horseshoe winners from Athens High.” Mr. Martin was honored on Awards Day in 1964 as reported by Pat Puckett in her article shown here.

Background of the West Virginia Golden Horseshoe Award

One of the highlights of the eighth-grade year is the opportunity for a student to become a Knight or Lady of the Golden Horseshoe.  This prestigious program takes its name from the golden horseshoes given to the early explorers of West Virginia.  In 1776 the Governor of the Virginia Colony, Alexander Spotswood, saw the need for exploration of the land west of the Allegheny Mountains, most of which is now West Virginia.  The governor organized a party of about 50 men, all of whom adopted the pledge, “Sic jurat transcendere montes,” which means “Thus he swears to cross the mountains.”  Governor Spotswood presented each member of the party with a small golden horseshoe to commemorate the bravery of those who crossed the mountains into Western Virginia, beginning the Golden Horseshoe tradition.

This historical tradition was revitalized in the late 1920’s.  To promote the study of state history, the idea of forming West Virginia Clubs was proposed by Phil M. Conley, an editor of the West Virginia Review.  In late 1929, Mr. Conley took his idea to State Superintendent of Free Schools William C. Cook.  Superintendent Cook believed that the State Department of Education should take the lead in promoting a comprehensive study of the state.  He proposed expanding Conley’s idea by honoring the highest-achieving students with a state award.  In 1930 some 2,736 clubs were organized with more than 48,000 students as members.  In the first Golden Horseshoe ceremony, held in 1931, 87 students from 46 counties were honored as Knights and Ladies of the Golden Horseshoe.  The Golden Horseshoe became known as a symbol of scholastic achievement to honor students who excel in the study of West Virginia.  Since that time, 15,000 eighth-grade students have received a golden pin in the shape of a horseshoe, much like those given by Governor Spotswood some three hundred years ago.  This pin symbolized the student’s knowledge and understanding of their state’s proud heritage.

The program of studies in combination with state awards is unique in its statewide recognition of scholastic achievement.  Each year approximately 22,000 eighth-grade students spend the school year studying a comprehensive West Virginia curriculum.  The curriculum engages the students in the intense study of the history, geography, economy and government of the Mountain State.  The primary goal of the program is to promote pride in our state, develop intellectual and participatory skills as well as foster attitudes that are necessary for students to participate as effective, involved, and responsible citizens.  The State Department of Education, in effect, uses the Golden Horseshoe award to honor “all-state” West Virginia Studies students.

Each year 221 eighth-grade students are honored for their knowledge of the state in a one-day ceremony held in Charleston.  The Golden Horseshoe winners have outscored their classmates in school and county-wide testing competitions and made top scores on a West Virginia Department of Education test which measures their grasp of West Virginia Studies.  Students also write an essay focusing on some aspect of West Virginia current events.  A minimum of two students from each county and one student from the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and Blind at Romney are selected for the award.  The other 110 honorees are selected from the 55 counties based on each county’s eighth-grade population.

While in Charleston to celebrate Golden Horseshoe Day, the honorees are treated to a tour of the Capitol and Cultural Center and a luncheon held in their honor.  The high point of the Golden Horseshoe Ceremony is the induction of the students into the Golden Horseshoe Society.  The State Superintendent of Schools presides over the induction ceremony.  Each student kneels and, with a tap of a sword on the shoulder, is dubbed either a Knight or Lady of the Golden Horseshoe Society.  Each student is presented a Golden Horseshoe pin, and the 70-year honor and tradition continues.  (WV Department of Education)

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