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Robert C. Byrd Center announces appointment of new director

ISSUED: 15 November 2023
MEDIA CONTACT: Cecelia Mason

SHEPHERDSTOWN, WV — The Robert C. Byrd Center for Congressional History and Education will be under new leadership in the upcoming year following the second retirement of longtime director Dr. Ray Smock. Shepherd University and the Robert C. Byrd Center Board of Directors announce that beginning on January 1, 2024, Dr. James Broomall, associate professor of history and director of the George Tyler Moore Center for the Study of the Civil War, will serve as the new director.

Headshot of James Broomall.“I am excited and honored to continue the work of my colleague and friend Dr. Ray Smock and look forward to collaborating with the Robert C. Byrd Center’s Board of Directors,” Broomall said. “As we enter this new phase of leadership, it is essential that we renew our commitment to civic education, especially among the local and regional community, but also continue a history of excellence in public programming. Only by redoubling these efforts can we promote a clearer understanding of the role and history of the United States Congress and our sacred Constitution.”

The mission of the Byrd Center is to advance representative democracy and promote a better understanding of the United States Congress and Constitution through programs and research that engage citizens. The Byrd Center archive contains the vast papers of the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd and other members of Congress from West Virginia. The Center has been a national leader in the preservation of the papers of former members of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate.

Broomall believes it is essential to continue cultivating and promoting engagement by citizens so they are familiar with the inner workings of and solutions possible through shared governance, especially in this era of political discord. He envisions the Center will continue to promote student internships, public programs, and shared projects between the George Tyler Moore Center and the Byrd Center.

“Both centers are grounded in the deep history of West Virginia, and this moment affords an opportunity to cultivate and promote guiding partnerships,” Broomall said.

Smock, founding director of the Byrd Center from 2002 to 2017, Headshot of Dr. Ray Smock.returned on an interim basis in 2021 when then director Dr. Jay Wyatt left to assume a position at the National Archives in Washington D.C.

“I am delighted to turn the reigns of the Byrd Center over to Jim Broomall,” Smock said, “because he is a fine scholar and campus leader who also directs the Civil War Center.”

Smock, the former Historian of the U.S. House of Representatives, will retain a connection with the Byrd Center as Director Emeritus and Resident Scholar, but will no longer be involved in the day-to-day operations.

Joe Stewart, the chairman of the board of the Congressional Education Foundation that oversees the work of the nonprofit Byrd Center, said, “We are honored and very pleased to have Dr. Broomall assume the leadership of the Byrd Center, and we look forward to working with him to foster the mission of the Center.”

“We are delighted that Dr. Broomall will lead the Byrd Center and carry on the rich legacy established by Dr. Smock,” said Shepherd President Mary J.C. Hendrix. “We are profoundly grateful to Dr. Smock for his remarkable contributions in making the Center a world-class Congressional archive and educational resource dedicated to promoting representative democracy. I look forward, under Dr. Broomall’s leadership, to further advancing the special partnership between the Byrd Center and the University.”

Broomall earned his Ph.D. from the University of Florida, his M.A. from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and his B.A. from the University of Delaware. He has worked in diverse environments, ranging from academic institutions to local museums, and developed courses, conferences, and programs of interpretation focusing on the experiences of civilians, soldiers, and slaves during the mid-19th century. Broomall has published several books, including Private Confederacies: The Emotional Worlds of Southern Men as Citizens and Soldiers as part of the University of North Carolina Press’ Civil War America series; and an edited collection, Rethinking American Emancipation: Legacies of Slavery and the Quest for Black Freedom, with William A. Link (2016, Cambridge University Press).

The Byrd Center’s auditorium and classrooms have been widely used by many campus and community groups, and it partners with Shepherd’s Lifelong Learning Program, George Tyler Moore Center for the Study of the Civil War, Center for Appalachian Studies and Communities, and Bonnie and Bill Stubblefield Institute for Civil Political Communications.

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