The First Discovery of Oil in West Virginia
According to West Virginia State Museum Director Charles Morris, the first oil was discovered in West Virginia in 1810. Morris stated, "A lot of the process of drilling for oil was developed in West Virginia."
The University of Virginia School of Law is Founded
Thomas Jefferson founded the University of Virginia School of Law in 1819. The school has consistently been ranked among the top law schools in the nation. Over the years, many Spilman attorneys, including Robert S. Spilman, studied law at the university.
Benjamin Harrison Smith Begins His Law Practice
Benjamin Harrison Smith returned to his hometown of Lancaster, Ohio, to study law after completing four years at Ohio Seminary. He moved to Charleston, W.Va., on May 27, 1822, and opened his law office. The law practice found success in the Kanawha Valley, which was bustling with development in the salt, timber, mining, and river transportation industries. In 1823 in the spring term of the court, Smith brought sixty lawsuits, the largest docket of any lawyer in the bar during this time. He would go on to form the partnership with E.B. Knight that would evolve to become Spilman Thomas & Battle.
The Birth of Pittsburgh's Steel Industry
Crucible steel, made by melting high-carbon blister steel and pure bar iron, is manufactured in Pittsburgh by four principal steelmakers. Uses for this steel included cutlery, piano wire, scissors and other cutting tools. Today, attorneys in Spilman’s Pittsburgh office offer services tailored to the manufacturing and industrial sectors.
West Virginia Enters Statehood
West Virginia seceded from Virginia during the Civil War and officially became a state on June 20, 1863. President Abraham Lincoln tapped Spilman co-founder Benjamin Harrison Smith to resolve issues with land titles in the new state.
Lincoln is Re-elected
Abraham Lincoln was elected president for a second term with electoral college votes counted from the 25 Union states, including the brand new state of West Virginia.
Smith & Knight Partnership Formed
Smith and Edward Boardman Knight formed Spilman’s parent firm Smith & Knight in Charleston, W.Va.
West Virginia University is Founded
In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Act, which offered land grants of 30,000 acres of federally owned land to each state that agreed to establish a college that would teach agriculture and engineering. Shortly after attaining statehood, the West Virginia Legislature acted to accept the Morrill Act, and money was raised to build the Agricultural College of West Virginia. Upon opening in 1867, it was an all-male school with just six faculty members and six college students. In 1868, the school's name was changed to West Virginia University. Through the years, many Spilman attorneys have been alumni of WVU and WVU College of Law; some have even served as faculty members.
The Monongahela Incline Welcomes Passengers
On May 28, 1870, Pittsburgh's first incline, the Monongahela Incline, opened to the public. The top of the incline overlooks a spectacular view of the city of Pittsburgh. The structure is used to transport passengers from the top of Mount Washington to Station Square below. It is a popular tourist attraction and historical landmark.
Knight Contributes to WV Constitution
Knight, an adept contract lawyer, was a member of the West Virginia Constitutional Convention and the primary author of an article governing property taxes and voting rights. Spilman’s legacy of shaping legislative measures continues to this day.
Tobacco Industry Launches in Winston-Salem
Richard J. Reynolds established the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company on a 300-foot lot of property in Winston-Salem, N.C. Other companies follow suit manufacturing tobacco in the area soon after.
Founding of WVU College of Law
The College of Law at West Virginia University was founded in 1878. It was accredited by the American Bar Association starting in 1923. Over the course of the firm's history, Spilman attorneys served as faculty in the law school, including David C. Howard, who worked as an associate professor. Howard advocated advanced education standards and worked towards increasing the institution's prestige.
Roanoke Becomes Crossroads for the Railroad
Roanoke’s early history centers around the railroad. Originally named Big Lick when the town moved to where the tracks came through, it was renamed Roanoke with the coming of the Shenandoah Valley Railroad (shortly thereafter, the Norfolk and Western Railway).
Smith & Knight Partnership Ends
The partnership of Smith & Knight is terminated by the death of Isaac Noyes Smith. After the death of the younger Smith, Knight formed a partnership with George S. Couch. The name of the firm became Knight & Couch.
Charleston National Bank Founded
Spilman attorney George S. Couch served as the first president of Charleston National Bank, which boasted $300,000 in capital by the turn of the century. Today, Spilman attorneys provide counsel to a wide array of banking clients.
Samuel Flournoy Elected to Senate
Spilman attorney Samuel Lightfoot Flournoy taught and studied law after graduating from Hampden-Sydney College in 1868. Admitted to the bar in 1873, he had a large interest in politics and served as mayor in Romney, West Virginia, before running for Senate. He was elected in 1885 and again in 1889. Flournoy moved to Charleston in 1890 and soon served as a prominent member of the firm.
New Partnership: Flournoy, Price & Smith
The firm existed as Couch, Flournoy & Price until 1900 when Couch retired. The firm then became Flournoy, Price & Smith. The offices of the firm were located in the Citizens National Bank building on Capitol Street in Charleston.
Harrison B. Smith Joins the Firm
Harrison Smith was the direct descendent of several lawyers in the Kanawha Bar. Many Charleston, W.Va., citizens owe him credit for significant business development in the early 20th Century. He was admitted to the bar in 1889 and practiced for several years with the firm Adams & Smith. He joined Couch, Flournoy & Price in 1894 and practiced law with the firm until 1942. He also took on the role of City Solicitor not long after joining the firm.
Robert S. Spilman Completes UVA Law School
Robert S. Spilman enrolled in the University of Virginia Law School in the fall of 1899. He completed the two-year program in a single year and was admitted to the West Virginia State Bar in 1900. One member of the law firm described Spilman as "without any question, the outstanding member of the firm in the 20th century."
The Firm Becomes Price, Smith & Spilman
George E. Price was the senior member of the law firm from the time of Samuel Flournoy's death in 1904 until 1938. Price and Flournoy were good friends and business associates. Both were elected to the West Virginia Legislature and even lived next door to each other after moving to Charleston. Price was involved in several important cases in the firm.
Buckner Clay Joins the Firm
Buckner Clay was asked to join the firm by Robert S. Spilman, and the firm became Price, Smith, Spilman and Clay in 1907. Many years after his death, in 1994 Clay's sons gifted the University of Virginia with $2 million dollars to build the school's south hall, which they dubbed Buckner Clay Hall.
Price Represents West Virginia Before Supreme Court of the United States
Spilman attorney George E. Price was selected by the governor to represent the State of West Virginia in a boundary dispute with Maryland at the Supreme Court of the United States. Spilman trial lawyers take great pride in representing the interests of clients, regardless of the venue or type of matter.
Winston and Salem, NC Merge
On May 9, 1913, the towns of Winston and Salem merged into one, becoming Winston-Salem, NC. Winston-Salem is also known as "The Twin City." Its Latin motto, URBS CONDITA AIDUVANDO, translates in English to "A city founded on cooperation."
The United States Enters World War I
In early April of 1917, the United States entered World War I in response to attacks upon its ships in the Atlantic Ocean. The war ended in 1918 after member countries of the Central Powers signed an armistice agreement.
WV Leads U.S. Natural Gas Production
For more than a decade – from 1906 to 1917 – West Virginia led the United States in production of natural gas. In later years, Spilman leaders would serve at the forefront of the shale gas industry.
Edmund Caskie Harrison Dies in Combat
Edmund Caskie “Jack” Harrison, a lawyer at the firm for about 10 years, volunteered as a private for the U.S. Army in World War I, foregoing a higher rank and non-combatant position. He was killed in France 11 days before the end of the war. He is memorialized in a book based on letters to his brother, author Henry Sydnor Harrison.
Women Gain the Right to Vote
The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, allowing women the right to vote, was formally adopted August 18, 1920.
Judge John M. Woods Oversees Union Disputes
Judge John M. Woods, a former Spilman attorney, gained national prominence when he presided over treason trials in Charles Town, W.Va. Several United Mine Workers leaders were charged with inciting insurrection during an armed march in Logan County. Woods was recognized for being even-handed in his jurisprudence.
Spilman is Keynote Speaker at Dedication of Charleston Senior High School
Robert S. Spilman delivered the keynote address at the dedication of the new Charleston Senior High School in September of 1926. During Spilman's address, he discussed the importance of a so-called "free" public education system. He was a huge supporter of public education and believed that access to learning was paramount. He served as a member of the county school board for many years, involving himself in several controversial causes in which he believed.
The Great Depression Begins
On October 29, 1929, "Black Tuesday," the stock market crashed. This marked the beginning of The Great Depression. Despite the economic difficulties, the firm kept an impressive list of major clients throughout the 1930s.
Goodrich Appointed to U.S. Board of Tax Appeals
Spilman attorney Edgar J. Goodrich, a recognized tax law authority, was appointed by President Hoover to the 16-member U.S. Board of Tax Appeals in Washington, D.C. Goodrich authored a guide for lawyers about practicing before the Bureau of Internal Revenue, the first and, for many years, only authoritative publication on the subject.
Hawthorne D. Battle is Named Partner
Hawthorne D. Battle became a partner on July 1, 1931. He was trained in all areas of the firm's practice including real property, commercial law, taxation, trials and appeals. He worked for five years until taking military leave. When he returned, he joined Sen. J. Hornor Davis in forming a combined Kanawha-Charleston Health Department where he served as its first president. Battle took a second leave from the firm in the 1950s to take over WCHS-TV, following the previous owner's death. After selling the station in 1960, Battle returned to the firm once again.
Robert S. Spilman Jr. Joins the Firm
In 1932, Robert "Bob" Spilman, Jr., graduated from Harvard University Law School. He then returned to West Virginia to be admitted to the State Bar. The same year, he became an associate at Price, Smith & Spilman. Within five years, Bob Spilman, Jr. had made partner. Known as a hard worker in the office and on the tennis court, he was very involved in the community. He died suddenly in 1969. At his memorial, West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Thornton G. Berry described him as "an industrious and enterprising man of integrity...he was a loyal friend, an erudite lawyer, a gentleman and a scholar."
Spilman Attorney Impresses Top Company
T. Brook Price’s work for one of America’s largest corporations was so impressive the company recruited him as general counsel at a subsidiary, and then as general counsel and vice president at the parent company. Spilman carries on this tradition of drawing legal talent from – and supplying it to – private sector corporations.
Four of Spilman's Leading Lawyers Leave for WWII
Following Japan’s 1941 attack at Pearl Harbor, Robert Spilman Jr., Hawthorne D. Battle, Wood Bouldin and Victor Ross, all stalwarts of Spilman, left law practice to defend their nation, serving in the U.S. armed forces. We continue our proud tradition of embracing veterans returning to practice at Spilman today.
Spilman Attorneys Influence Labor Relations
According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Spilman attorneys’ representation of E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company in the Belle Works labor dispute resulted in two important developments in labor relations. Spilman attorneys continue to advise clients and shape policy in the labor arena.
Eisenhower Enjoys Spilman’s Hospitality
President Dwight D. Eisenhower visited Charleston, WV, late in his second term and was invited to lunch at the home of Robert S. Spilman, Sr. The President was asked if he would take refreshment; when he hesitated, Spilman suggested one of his own concoctions, a “Sideboard Toddy,” so named because it was made at his sideboard. The bourbon-based mixture went down well with the Commander-in-Chief, and much to the amazement of onlookers, he had another, rendering the president a little unsteady on his feet by lunchtime.
The Korean War Begins
On June 25, 1950, North Korean forces invaded South Korea. On June 27, President Harry S. Truman authorized the use of American forces in Korea. A week later, the United Nations placed the forces of 15 other member nations under U.S. command, and Truman appointed Gen. Douglas MacArthur supreme commander. Fred L. Thomas, Jr., a Spilman attorney, served in both World War II and the Korean War as an Air Force fighter pilot.
Charles B. Stacy joins the firm
Known as a motivating force for many advances in the law firm, Charles B. Stacy practiced with the firm for over half a century. Many credit Stacy as moving the law firm into the modern age. Proud to serve as the firm's historian, he was a noted tax lawyer and very active in several national tax organizations. He was the only representative of West Virginia selected by President Jimmy Carter to serve on an 11-member nominating counsel for the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.
Spilman, Sr., and Thomas Untimely Deaths
In 1955 Robert S. Spilman, Sr. suffered from a stroke. Although he continued to work for a brief period, he died soon after. Around the same time of Mr. Spilman's death, Thomas Sr. died of a heart attack. Mr. Battle had previously left to run WCHS-TV. The young and less experienced lawyers of the firm were left on their own without their three leading attorneys. Fortunately, they had learned the skills they needed to succeed.
A Decade of Evolution in the Legal Field
During the 1960s, the legal work of Spilman Thomas & Battle was centered on business transactions and client advice. Natural resources companies in the region formed the core of the firm's corporate clients. The firm also practiced in real property, taxation, workers' compensation and trust and estates. Sixty percent of the firm's business during this time was corporate. Today, Spilman continues to maintain a very strong corporate practice, one that is nationally recognized for excellence by Chambers USA among other entities.
Spilman Faces the Governor
Robert S. Spilman, Jr., was hired by a school bus supplier to challenge a decision by Governor Wally Barron’s administration to award the business to another supplier. The Barron administration claimed “technical flaws” and disqualified Spilman’s client. Spilman met with the governor to challenge the decision. When Spilman presented a complaint he had prepared to file in court, he told Barron, “If you are prepared to hang yourself, I am prepared to supply the rope.” Barron reversed the decision to the benefit of Spilman’s client. Today, clients continue to rely upon Spilman for strong advocacy in government relations.
MLK's "I Have a Dream" Speech
On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered the famous "I Have a Dream" speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. during the March on Washington for jobs and freedom. He spoke of his hope for equality.
President John F. Kennedy Assassinated
During his second presidential campaign, John F. Kennedy traveled across several states to deliver speeches. Texas was among them, where he and First Lady Jackie Kennedy did a five-city tour of the state. While riding in a motorcade through Dealey Plaza in downtown Dallas, the president was shot and killed by Lee Harvey Oswald.
The "T" in Pittsburgh Opens to the Public
On July 3, 1985, Pittsburgh's downtown subway opened. The $70 million dollar project was built in four years. It was the shortest subway at the time, linking the city's Golden Triangle to Gateway Center. Today, Spilman's Pittsburgh office is located in the heart of the Golden Triangle.
Spilman Begins Geographic Expansion
Spilman opened its first office outside of Charleston in 1988. By 2008, the firm had expanded to Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Virginia, cementing its place as a regional law firm.
The Launch of the Hubble Telescope
On April 24, 1990, the Hubble Telescope was launched from Kennedy Space Center inside the Space Shuttle Discovery. The following day, the telescope was released into space to take previously unimaginable photographs of the Earth and surrounding planets.
World Wide Web is Underway
In 1990, the creation of the first version of the World Wide Web began. Tim Berners Lee, a British computer scientist, along with other colleagues, developed HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language) and the idea of the URL (uniform resource locator) that same year.
Spilman Opens Office in Morgantown
The leaders of Spilman Thomas & Battle felt that an office in Morgantown, W.Va. would be successful and beneficial, due to its small-town feel with big city amenities. Home to West Virginia University and two major hospitals, Morgantown has been one of the fastest growing cities in population and economic development in West Virginia. The office serves a wide range of clients across multiple industries.
Spilman Selected as DuPont "Primary Law Firm"
Spilman was selected as one of DuPont's original "Primary Law Firms" due to our leadership in diversity and creative fee arrangements. We continue to be at the forefront of this new "legal model."
Charleston HQ Moves to New Location
In 1993, now known as Spilman Thomas & Battle, the firm moved into its present location at 300 Kanawha Boulevard, East. The facility would eventually be dubbed Spilman Center. Prior to this move, the firm was located in the United Center in Charleston, W.Va.
Internet Culture Takes Shape
There were several breakthroughs for the Internet in 1995: Bill Gates authored his famous memo, "The Coming Internet Tidal Wave;" the majority of U.S. Internet traffic was routed through network service providers; and Microsoft Windows 95 was launched. Still-popular websites Amazon, Yahoo and eBay were also launched.
9/11 Terrorist Attacks
On September 11, 2001, militants associated with the Islamic extremist group al-Qaeda hijacked four airliners and carried out suicide attacks against U.S. targets. Two of the planes were flown into the towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, a third plane hit the Pentagon just outside Washington, D.C., and the fourth plane crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. More than 3,000 people were killed.
Spilman Represents DuPont
DuPont engaged Spilman Thomas & Battle to represent it in the Confederate Capital, Richmond, Virginia, regarding a matter at its plant on Jefferson Davis Highway, to stop seven employees from displaying Confederate symbols in defiance of company policy. The case prompted groups such as the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the Southern Legal Resource Center to protest the site in support of the errant employees. The law firm won the decision on behalf of DuPont.
Spilman Opens First Pennsylvania Office
In the early 2000s, an abundance of laws were passed affecting employment and labor. Spilman had been a leader in these fields and recognized the increase in client needs. Due to Pittsburgh's industrial past and strong business presence, the leaders of the firm decided it was a good time to create a new practice in the city. The Pittsburgh office prides itself on being a "small, but full-service office for middle-market clients," according to Ron Schuler, head of the Pittsburgh office.
Spilman Named Pro Bono Firm of the Year
Legal Aid of West Virginia recognized Spilman as the "2006 Firm of the Year" for contributing the most pro bono hours to the organization’s 2006 Pro Bono Referral Project.
Spilman Opens Office in North Carolina
The Spilman office in Winston-Salem, N.C. is home to a strong litigation group that handles cases throughout the entire state of North Carolina and frequently handles litigation and trial dockets in South Carolina and Tennessee. Complementing the litigation team, our North Carolina lawyers also maintain a robust corporate practice including banking & finance, bankruptcy, construction, energy and labor & employment.
Spilman Opens Office in Wheeling
Spilman's office in Wheeling opened in August 2006 after moving from Weirton. The office is dedicated to serving the needs of the region's corporate and private market and specializes in specific areas such as estate planning and administration, banking & finance, consumer finance, and white collar criminal defense.
Spilman Opens Office in Virginia
Spilman joined with the law firm Melchionna, Day & Black to open a Roanoke, Va. office. The firm had a successful practice before associating with Spilman, but sought improved employment law capabilities, according to F.B. Webster Day, managing partner of the office. The office has since supported many public finance and commercial transactions, and showcased special knowledge in the employment law field.
Spilman Joins World Services Group
Continuing efforts to reach beyond the Mid-Atlantic region, the law firm was approved for membership as part of the World Services Group. The group of professional service firms has more than 130 member firms in operation in over 115 countries. We are pleased to extend the power of these global linkages to the benefit of our clients.
Spilman Opens Office in Greater Harrisburg Area
The Greater Harrisburg, Pa. office of Spilman Thomas & Battle was built to serve clients in central Pennsylvania and the Mid-Atlantic region. The Harrisburg team was strategically formed to handle specific issues including energy, public utility, communications and environmental issues on a regular basis.
Earthquake Strikes the East Coast and Midwest
On August 23, 2011, an earthquake struck the east coast of the United States. The earthquake, centered in Mineral, Virginia, measured at a 5.9 magnitude. Citizens of downtown Washington, D.C. reported being able to feel the quake significantly as shelves were shaking and desks were rattling. The quake was felt as far as New York City and across a broad swath of the east coast, including several of Spilman's offices.
Spilman Attorneys Lead Shale Gas Development
Spilman attorneys have been at the forefront of policy regulating shale gas development. Along with other industry leaders, Spilman was able to secure protection of environment and surface owners' interests while encouraging responsible development of shale gas resources.
Spilman Recognized on NLJ’s Midsize Hot List
Spilman was one of only 20 firms named to The National Law Journal's 2012 Midsize Hot List. Clients rely upon our ability to control costs, spot legal trends, and attract and retain top talent, the same factors recognized by NLJ.
SuperVision™ App Premiers
The firm released the SuperVision™ smartphone application, designed to help business professionals with common employment law issues. This innovative, free resource is emblematic of our commitment to delivering value to clients.
West Virginia Celebrates Its 150th Birthday
West Virginia celebrated its 150th birthday by holding a sesquicentennial ceremony on June 20, 2013. Event highlights included an outdoor concert at the state capitol by the WV Symphony Orchestra and Appalachian Children's Choir, as well as a state-of-the-art 3-D video projection of West Virginia history on the capitol building itself.
The Future of Life Insurance
Ernst & Young predicts two megatrends will change the future of life insurance by 2020. The first is a shift in demographics. According to the U.S. Census, the U.S. population aged 55 and over will grow by 25-30% by 2020. The number of citizens under 35 will increase by 10%. The younger generation is more tech-savvy and looking for a more simpler form of insurance. This leads to the second megatrend by 2020, an increase in digital self-serve channels. Buying insurance online will become a norm by 2020. Spilman, with its strengths in insurance defense, insurance reform, litigation and public policy, stands ready to tackle such challenges with clients.
Mining Asteroids for Energy?
By 2030, mining of near-Earth asteroids (NEAs) is believed to be a thriving industry. Early investors, such as filmmaker James Cameron (of Titanic fame) and former Microsoft executive Charles Simonyi, are among pioneers already developing plans for this galactic business opportunity. However, just as with Earth-based mining, this galactic business opportunity comes with potential hazards and concerns. Spilman looks forward to exploring such new opportunities with clients.
Paper Money Is No More
Personal financial experts have a few ideas of the types of financial services we will be using in the future: bank tellers and face-to-face communication at banks will slowly diminish. By 2033, paper bank statements, receipts and other paperwork from one's bank will most likely be non-existent. Finally, by 2043, it is likely that consumers will pay for things by sending wireless signals to sellers through wearable computers.
"Intelligent Buildings" Popping Up All Over
By 2050, many modern skyscrapers will feature the capability to produce food, water and other resources. Farms will exist on multiple floors of many towers, while rain, wind and other natural resources will be produced and trapped within the building. Most buildings will run on solar power collected by window panels. Spilman will continue to keep pace with advances in energy and technology. Always aiming to deliver excellence and value to clients, we embrace the opportunity to innovatively equip firm facilities with high-tech capabilities.