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Recalling Bradley Nash

January 02, 1997

The modern history of Harpers Ferry, W.Va. has often been marked by tension between federal officials and residents of the town, many of whom don't want their lives and businesses controlled by Uncle Sam. Fortunately for both groups, there was a true statesman available to assist in the development of the town, a statesman by the name of Bradley Nash.

Nash, who served as the town's mayor from 1971 to 1977 and from 1981 to 1986, died Wednesday at the age of 96. It's appropriate to begin 1997 with a look back at his many accomplishments.

A Harvard graduate (Class of '23), he served as President Herbert Hoover's personal secretary from 1927 to 1929 and held a variety of top government posts during and after his move to Harpers Ferry in 1950. As mayor he was responsible, among other things, for helping get a new public water system for the town, for negotiating a joint police agreement between Harpers Ferry and Bolivar and for addressing the problem of dangerous traffic in the town.

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When he resigned 10 years ago at the age of 86, his mayoral salary was just $100 a month. He noted then that he wasn't in the job for the money, but as a volunteer for the community. He was described as a progressive and a visionary, but also as a gentleman whose behavior inspired others, like former Charles Town Mayor Donald C. Master, in his own work.

Some of Nash's finest contributions to that community were his and his family's donations of 65 acres of land to the National Historical Park and to West Virginia. Instead of selling off the land for what would certainly have been a tidy profit, Nash and his first wife Ruth chose to preserve it for the ages, in its pristine form, to enlarge the national park that is such a large part of the town, and to provide a state refuge for wildlife.

Finally, Bradley Nash was an example to senior citizens everywhere. His service to the town began at an age when most people have retired. It is a contribution that deserves to be remembered as long as Harpers Ferry remains a destination for those who love history.

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