Don Chafin

Don Chafin (June 26, 1887 – August 9, 1954) was the sheriff of Logan County, West Virginia and a commander in the Battle of Blair Mountain. As sheriff of Logan County, Chafin was a fierce opponent of unionization and received hundreds of thousands of dollars from coal mine operators in return for his violent suppression of the United Mine Workers union.

Chafin’s most notable anti-union measures came during the 1921 Battle of Blair Mountain, when he organized an effort to
prevent armed miners from crossing through Logan County. He assembled a force of thousands of local townspeople, sheriff’s deputies, and militias. His forces halted the miner’s advance on Logan in certain areas around Blair Mountain. Chafin hired bi-planes to drop anti-union propaganda against the miners and later on, home made bombs were dropped upon the miners; with little effect. His forces also surrendered their fire arms when Federal troops arrived. As a result of his actions, Chafin became a hero of the mine operators and an enemy of the miners.

Drunk with power after the battle he became more arrogant about his position as sheriff of Logan County. In 1924, Chafin was arrested in connection with moonshining and sentenced to two years in prison. Chafin was tried and convicted of violation of the Volstead Act at the federal courthouse in Huntington, West Virginia on October 14, 1924. He was given the maximum sentence of two years in prison, and ordered to pay a fine of $10,000. The judge in the case also took special precautions to protect the witnesses against Chafin, due to his potentially violent nature. Chafin appealed the verdict, but it was upheld in April 1925, and he was sent to the federal penitentiary in Atlanta.

After his release, he became an important figure in the Democratic Party of West Virginia, and a lobbyist for the coal industry. In 1936, he moved to Huntington, West Virginia where he was a wealthy and well-known figure until his death in 1954.

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Published in: on April 24, 2011 at 5:55 pm  Comments Off on Don Chafin  
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