The West Virginian Did It

There is a West Virginia connection to a writer behind “Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” the current movie that is attracting considerable attention from filmgoers.

The movie is based on an article that Wil Haygood wrote for The Washington Post in 2008 about Eugene Allen, who worked in the White House for 34 years. Haygood, who expanded the story into a book, “The Butler: A Witness to History,” which was released earlier this year, is an associate producer of the new movie.

Prior to joining the Post’s staff, Haygood was a copy editor and features writer in Charleston in the early 1980s.

Haygood will return to the Mountain State to speak at the University of Charleston at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 24, as part of the university’s 2013-14 Speaker Series. He will sign copies of his books from 5-6 p.m.

Haygood, who has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities, has written biographies of Sammy Davis Jr., Sugar Ray Robinson and Adam Clayton Powell Jr.

Meanwhile, a West Virginia writer with Wheeling ties has published a new book.

Wheeling native Sean O’Leary, a noted playwright and opinion columnist who now resides in Harpers Ferry, has written “The State of My State: A Native Son’s Search for West Virginia.” The book contains selected essays from O’Leary’s “The State of My State” newspaper column published between January 2010 and March of this year.

The paperback volume was published by MarketLab Inc. of Harpers Ferry. O’Leary said that many of the essays in the book were published originally in the Martinsburg Journal newspaper and others appeared in the Spirit of Jefferson, a weekly newspaper in the Eastern Panhandle.

Before becoming a newspaper columnist, O’Leary was best known as a playwright, with many of his dramas premiered at Oglebay Institute’s Towngate Theatre, where the main stage is now named in honor of his father, legendary Wheeling actor-director Harold G. “Hal” O’Leary. The younger O’Leary is a graduate of Bethany College, where his father also taught for several years.

Although I didn’t get to see (or smell) it, the legendary odiferous corpse flower bloomed at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Pittsburgh this past week.

The corpse flower, described as “one of the world’s rarest, largest and smelliest flowers,” has a bloom lasting only 24 to 48 hours. Phipps Conservatory remained open until 2 a.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, Aug. 20-21, so that area residents could observe and smell the fascinating flower with the repulsive aroma.

For folks whose tastes in gardening run to smaller and less-smelly products, the Ohio County Master Gardeners and officials of Oglebay Institute’s Schrader Environmental Center are completing plans for the fifth Wheeling Gardening Symposium to be held at Schrader Center in Oglebay Park from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 14. The theme for the day-long seminar is “Gardening for Life – Think Small.”

Congratulations are extended to the Rev. Gregory Plow, TOR, a Franciscan University of Steubenville friar and coordinator of faith households, who completed an ultramarathon in Boise National Forest in Idaho Saturday, Aug. 3.

University officials said Plow finished the grueling 53.4-mile run in 18 hours and 7 minutes; he was the last of 17 of the original 22 runners who started the race.

Linda Comins can be reached via email at: