Charleston Daily Mail

used by permission

Dave Peyton
April 3 2006

A movie to change Huntington's mindset?

THIS is the big week for Huntington and Marshall University. A real movie crew with real actors are due in the city for the filming of the movie "We Are . . . Marshall," the story of Marshall's amazing comeback from a plane crash that killed nearly the entire football team, coaches and many local fans.

It was former Gov. Arch Moore who pegged Huntington's attitude. Huntington isn't happy about anything, he said more than once. And it appears that that mindset may carry over about the movie as well.

Some apparently think the movie is going to be a travelogue about Huntington or a documentary about Marshall University.

Wrong on both counts. After all, if the movie were about Huntington, it would probably be called "We Are . . . Bankrupt."

Others believe the movie will focus on the tragic plane crash, something that folks in Huntington do every November when they memorialize the disaster.

It won't. While there apparently will be a funeral scene, this will be a feel-good movie about a comeback that borders on the miraculous.

How that marvel happened, especially in Huntington, still baffles me. The city has been on an economic and emotional slide for nearly 50 years.

My Huntington is a shadow of its former self, and it sometimes hurts to drive through the city and see the dirt, the chaos and the confusion.

If Marshall's football team could come back from the ultimate disaster, why can't Huntington come back from its hard times?

It's obviously a question that has no answer. And that's sad.


Dave Peyton
February 27 2006

David Strathairn is due to arrive in Huntington next month to play the role of the late Donald Dedmon, the acting president of Marshall University when the Marshall plane crash occurred in 1970.

This will actually be the second time Strathairn has been in West Virginia to act a part. Strathairn played Sid Hatfield, the police chief of Matewan, in the 1987 movie of the same name and walked the streets of Thurmond on the New River, which was the site chosen to film the movie.

By the time movie production begins in Huntington next month, we'll know if the actor has received an Academy Award for his role of Edward R. Morrow in the film "Good Night and Good Luck."

Dedmon was actually acting president of Marshall when the 1970 tragedy sent the university into a tailspin.

I did a one-on-one interview with Dedmon a few weeks following the disaster and was struck by the absolute sorrow and shock that Dedmon exhibited during the interview. The weight of the disaster was on his shoulders.

He was forced to make almost split-second decisions about how to memorialize the dead and provide succor to their families, the university and the entire city.

And while I sense there were a lot of folks who were unhappy with some of the decisions he made, I believe he remains an unsung hero.

He left Marshall a couple of years after the tragedy and became president of Radford University in Virginia where he retired in 1992.

He died in 1998 at the age of 66 and I'll always believe his premature death was due in part to what he went through in Huntington in 1970.