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95-year-old W.Va. man hasn't missed an election in 65 years

T. Guy Reynolds, others inducted Saturday into the West Virginia Voter Hall of Fame

T. Guy Reynolds, others inducted Saturday into the West Virginia Voter Hall of Fame

February 17, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. -- T. Guy Reynolds Jr. hasn't missed an election for 65 years, if not longer.

"If you don't go vote, don't go complain about anything," the 95-year-old Martinsburg native said last week at his Winchester Avenue home.

A Democrat, Reynolds was chosen to be among the first class of inductees into the West Virginia Voter Hall of Fame, which was announced in

September 2007 by Secretary of State Betty Ireland.

Ireland's office had asked county clerks across the state to request the names of the oldest voter in each county who met the requirement of having voted in the last 25 West Virginia general elections over the last 50 years.

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After the first class is installed, Ireland, who will leave office at the end of the year, envisions having county clerks annually submit another name.

On March 20, Ireland is expected to take part in a recognition ceremony for Reynolds at the Berkeley County Voters Registration office at 110 W. King St. in Martinsburg, Sarah C. Bailey, director of communications for the Secretary of State's office, said last week.

County Clerk John W. Small said last week that records show Reynolds has voted in every election at least since 1942, when a state system was put in place to maintain permanent voter registration information. There are no earlier voting records available, Small said.

Small said he is planning to have Ireland's presentation for Reynolds coincide with a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new drive-through service at the voters registration office, which is in a former bank building.

Blessed with good health by "the man above," Reynolds said Thursday that his first vote for president went to Franklin D. Roosevelt.

"I was very impressed with him until he wanted to run for a third term," said Reynolds, who was born a few weeks after Woodrow Wilson was elected president in November 1912. "I wasn't in favor of that. Two terms was enough."

Reynolds said he likely voted for as many Republicans as Democrats over the years.

"I vote for the man, not for the party," Reynolds said.

Reynolds said he came within an hour of ending his voting streak several years ago when a school levy was on the ballot.

He and his wife went to eat at The Airport Inn (now Nick's Airport Inn) in Hagerstown, realized the election simply had "slipped his mind" and had only an hour to get to the polls.

Rather than miss the vote, Reynolds said he had the restaurant staff pack up their food so they could take it with them.

The oldest of six children, Reynolds said he suffered a stroke that caused hearing loss, but was later able to pass a physical to return to the skies a few years ago after a 50-plus year hiatus. He first started flying in 1943, and left the airways in 1952 for professional opportunities on the ground, he said. An invitation to the 80th anniversary celebration of Shepherd Field south of Martinsburg in 2003 ultimately coaxed him to return to the cockpit.

"It's like a riding a bicycle," said Reynolds, who has flown almost 300 hours since.

When asked about this year's presidential election, Reynolds didn't seem too pleased with the choices.

"I hope some dark horse comes up at the last minute that's worthwhile," Reynolds said.

He also thinks the election process this year started too early and has dragged on far too long.

His solution: Start the campaigning three months before the election in a format similar to those he said are held in other countries.

"It would save a lot of wear and tear on people -- and a lot of money," Reynolds said.

Regardless of the election process, Reynolds said he would continue to vote in every election.

"I believe in it," Reynolds said.

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