PARKERSBURG - Surrounded by hundreds of students, cheerleaders, the band, school officials, elected leaders and the Parkersburg South High School Patriot, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin Monday signed into law the Musket Bill, providing an exemption for the school's mascot to carry and fire his musket.
"This will allow Parkersburg South to continue its traditions," the governor said.
Tomblin, who arrived on school grounds via helicopter, was introduced by Principal Tom Eschbacher.
Photo by Jody Murphy
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin delivers short remarks Monday to students at Parkersburg South High School where he signed the Musket Bill into law. Patriot Jesse Lemon and cheerleading coach Maria Miller are in the background.
Tomblin signed West Virginia Senate Bill 421 into law on a table set up in the driveway in front of the school as the student body, standing in the grounds in front of the school, looked on. Local lawmakers Sen. David Nohe, R-Wood, Delegate Tom Azinger, R-Wood, and Delegate Anna Border, R-W.Va., watched along with representatives of the school and school system.
The governor was flanked by the school's cheerleaders, band and the Patriot, Jesse Lemon, who fired his musket as the Tomblin penned the final strokes of his signature.
Tomblin said the bill's passage came from a "groundswell of support from Parkersburg South and the area."
The legislation passed the House of Delegates and the Senate in April. The House voted 96-1 in favor and the Senate voted 33-0 with one senator not voting.
He said the musket was symbolic to the Parkersburg South mascot.
"It's part of the uniform and make-up. It's done in fun," he said.
Tomblin broke from remarks on the Musket Bill to remind students of the dangers of texting while driving, noting the law that went into effect last year.
The governor said the bill is clear the musket is to be used only in the mascot's official capacity.
The musket has been fired at Parkersburg South home football games since 1967 and is only handled by the mascot after being properly trained to use it.
Superintendent Pat Law said school officials will continue to cooperate with other schools with regard to legitimate objections or concerns.
Law, a Parkersburg South graduate, said the Patriot and its musket have been a tradition from the beginning of the school. Law said officials have watched for two years as the Patriot patrolled the sidelines empty-handed, clapping.
"It looked like something was missing," Law said.