By Jonathan Williams
Times West Virginian
Some cynics have commented that the majority of the traffic in West Virginia is headed for the exits.
Even state songs reference leaving through the lens of looking back. “The West Virginia Hills” has a lot of roaming over sea and land, and you can’t get a clearer picture of a native who dreams of home than “Take Me Home, Country Roads.”
But there are a lot of people who followed those country roads and found a new home in the hills of West Virginia, and perhaps none more famously than Sen. John “Jay” Rockefeller III.
Born in New York City, Rockefeller has called West Virginia his home since 1964 and has served the state as governor and senator, among other positions, across his long political career.
Rockefeller was born into one of America’s wealthiest families. The Rockefellers have long been engaged in philanthropy and public service, and Jay was no exception. Following his college years at Harvard, he joined the Peace Corps and later Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA), which led him to West Virginia for the first time.
Coming to Emmons, a tiny community in Kanawha County, in 1964, Rockefeller no doubt expected to make a difference and move on, perhaps back to Asia, a region he’d been fascinated by as a young man. Yet, he said, “in the end, I was the one who was transformed by the experience — completely transformed.”