A popular contender for the state’s new welcome slogan has a pretty rich history.

The “Wild Wonderful West Virginia” phrase became widely used in the mid-1970s, appearing on everything from government pamphlets to license plates.

Now state residents are deciding whether to return that phase to the state’s approximately 107 welcome signs that greet travelers coming into the state.

Former Gov. Arch Moore said he started using the slogan during his first year in office in 1969.

Lysander Dudley, Moore’s commerce director at the time, is often credited with coming up with the slogan, but he said all he did was approve the phrase coined by an ad agency in Baltimore, Md.

“We thought it was catchy and said how West Virginians feel about the state,” Dudley said Tuesday from his home in West Palm Beach, Fla. “It took off.”

One of the first things the Moore administration did with the slogan was distribute a brochure detailing the state’s most notable attributes called “Wild, Wonderful West by Gosh Virginia.”

In August 1969, Moore used the phrase ‘wild and wonderful’ in a speech at The Greenbrier. And by January 1970, the administration had changed the name of the state magazine from “Outdoor West Virginia” to “Wonderful West Virginia.”

The “Wild Wonderful West Virginia” slogan was added to the state’s welcome signs in 1975 and was available on license plates the following year. It was plastered on the state’s welcome signs until 1991, when Gov. Gaston Caperton had the slogan removed.

Last year, Gov. Joe Manchin put up new “Open for Business” welcome signs, which proved unpopular with residents.

Manchin now favors readopting the “Wild Wonderful” slogan. His office is conducting an online and telephone poll on whether the state should adopt a permanent slogan and, if so, what it should be. The voting ended at midnight Wednesday.

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