NORMAN — He wasn’t from West Virginia. He didn’t have to be here. But Jay Rockefeller chose to become a West Virginian.
As his surname suggests, Jay came from wealth but thrust himself into a small West Virginia mining community as a 27-year-old VISTA volunteer.
From there, he fell in love with the state and its people and dedicated himself to a life of serving them — as a volunteer, a state delegate, secretary of state, a college president, governor and senator.
Rockefeller announced that he will not seek re-election at the end of his fifth term in the Senate. His legacy is vast.
He is known as an advocate for accessible health care and miners’ safety. He played an instrumental role in expanding the state’s economic opportunities. He co-authored legislation to improve education for children. He has targeted television violence and obscenity along with Internet security. His support for our nation’s soldiers and veterans is well-documented.
Rockefeller’s position as chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation; chair of the Health Care Subcommittee on Finance and being a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence while serving on the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs has given him a strong voice in Washington in several vitally important affairs.
Despite the silver spoon status that may have come his way as a great-grandson to oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller, Jay was just Jay to thousands of West Virginians. By humbling himself to serve others in public office, his legacy will be much taller than even the lanky, bespectacled senator himself. It will be one of representing West Virginia’s — and even the nation’s — middle class in a manner that improved the lives of several generations.
With two more years remaining in office, Jay will likely cement his heritage even more. At a height of over 6 feet 6 inches, Jay will forever stand tall in West Virginia and United States history — leaving some quite sizable shoes to fill in 2014.
— The Register-Herald, Beckley, W.Va.