Communities Reflect on Murray’s Philanthropy
BETHESDA — As Robert E. Murray and Murray Energy begin to navigate the bankruptcy process, leaders of communities and organizations that have benefited from his philanthropy over the years are reflecting on his contributions.
This past week his company sought Chapter 11 protection and is undergoing restructuring, with the new company Murray NewCo taking on Murray Energy’s assets.
Many in the Bethesda and Richland Township areas, including Bethesda Village Administrator Dirk Davis, said Murray, a Bethesda native, has always maintained a love for his hometown and has benefited the community whenever possible. Davis pointed out the 2017 Memorial Plaza that was established beside the village building. It features dedications in memory of veterans who laid down their lives in service as well as the refurbished community clock and new clock tower.
“He bought the flags, the poles and everything. He did all that work,” Davis said of Murray.
“He also helped us with the park, with paving, with rows through the cottages,” Davis said of Murray’s contributions in support of historic Epworth Park.
Davis said Murray also contributed to Bethesda’s Masonic lodge by having a new roof placed on the building.
He added that Murray has been a past office-holder in the organization.
“He redid the kitchen, the upstairs, the meeting room, everything,” Davis said. “He put a stair-chair in. He’s done a lot for the lodge.”
Davis said Murray has also contributed to area churches.
“Bob Murray has done a lot for Bethesda. It’s as simple as that,” Davis said. “He grew up on Virginia Street in Bethesda. He lived his whole life here.”
Davis said Murray often has spoken about his early years in Bethesda and the support and friendship he received from the community, which helped him in pursuing his education and training. Davis himself worked for Murray at the No. Six mine as a continuous miner on the longwall.
“I had 40 years of employment. We’ll wait and see what happens with the retirees. That’s the question,” Davis said. “If it wasn’t for Mr. Murray, a lot of people wouldn’t have incomes in this area. … He employs a lot of people in Belmont County.”
Most recently, Murray funded the renovation of exterior walls at Bethesda Senior Center. Connie Barries, treasurer of the senior center association, said Murray has been a longtime benefactor.
“It was a couple years ago that he helped us with our air conditioning system. It had gone out,” she said. “We had no air conditioning. It was in the middle of the summer. We told him how much it would be and he gave us the check for it. And again this year he came and did the wall for us.”
She said Murray also has been a welcome participant in the annual Chataqua Festival.
“He grew up here,” she said. “I know of him because my husband was a coal miner for 26 years and he worked in Murray’s mines.”
She added that she hopes for positive news regarding pensions.
“We got a call (Tuesday) night. All the coal miners got a call from (United Mine Workers of America President) Cecil Roberts about the Murray bankruptcy and the MWA could stay on it and see if anything they could do going forward,” she said.
“The senior center is very grateful,” member Sandy Wise said.
“He’s provided employment for a tremendous amount of people in the area,” Tim Snyder, minister of First Christian Church in Bethesda, said.
He said this includes several parishioners’ families.
“We’re praying for the coal mine industry and Mr. Murray,” Jerry Wenger, senior pastor of East Richland Evangelical Friends Church, said.
Murray attends the East Richland church and provided funding for its Ickes Family Life Center, an educational complex within sight of his headquarters on National Road.