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Joseph Z. Terrell, WV Penitentiary Warden, 1918-

Joseph Z. Terrell, WV Penitentiary Warden, 1918-


from History of West Virginia, Old and New and West Virginia Biography -- Chicago: The American Historical Society, 1923 (v. 2, p. 300)

JOSEPH Z. TERRELL. The warden of the State Penitentiary is peculiarly an office that represents an opportunity for disinterested service to the state, and is unaccompanied by any compensating advatnages, honor orfinancial emolument. Seldom has West Virginia had a man in this position who has served more faithfully than the present warden, Joseph Z. Terrell. Mr. Terrell until he accepted the appointment of warden had given all his time from boyhood to railroading, and was prominent in the service of the Baltimore & Ohio.

He was born in Hanover County, Virginia, December 28, 1873. His father, Nicholas Terrell, a retired farmer, still owns the old homestead in Virginia but at the age of eighty-one is living with his son at Moundsville. Joseph Z. Terrell had a common-school education and a s a youth learned telegraphy and became a railroad operator. In 1892 he entered the service of the Baltimore & Ohio as an operator on the Cumberland Division, and his name is still retained on the company's roll. He was operator, agent, yardmaster and held various other places in the operating, accounting and traffic departments, all his service being given to the Cumberland Division between Brunswick, Maryland, and Grafton, West Virginia. For several years he was agent at Romney and at Keyser, and was also freight and passenger agent.

October 1, 1918, Mr. Terrell was selected by Governor Cornwell as warden of the West Virginia Penitentiary at Moundsville. He had not been previously known as a special figure in politics, and partisan politics have been excluded from his administration. Mr. Terrell would be averse to classification as a prision reformer. He has attended sessions of the Prison Congress, has studied prison management from the light of his own experience and other institutions as well, but in all his administration he had made common sense the basis of any changes he has instituted.

At the beginning of his term he instituted measures that would eliminate waste and insure economy, and has the satisfaction of seeing the income from the penitentiary almost equal the expenses, though for a number of years previously there had been a heavy deficit. He introduced certain modifications of the honor system, particularly in the operation of the prison farm, but most effectually changed the spirit of the men under him by a wholesome and just discipline and by emphasizing the age old principle that work is the solution for the evils arising out of idleness. Prisoners have been treated as human beings, and he has encouraged athletics, has introduced wholesome entertainment, including moving pictures, and so far as possible has conducted the institution with a view to inculcating a proper sense of individual responsibility and respect for law and training the individuals for responsible citizenship.

Mr. Terrell is a Knight Templar Mason and an Elk, and his hobby is horseback riding. Mrs. Terrell is an active member of the Woman's Club of the Wheeling District and both belong to the Episcopal Church.

His first wife was Miss McAdams, of Morgan County, who died in 1907, leaving one son, Claude M., now an attorney, who graduated from the law department of the University of Virginia in 1920 and is in the office of a prominent firm of New York City corporation lawyers, Hornblower, Miller & Garrison. In 1909 Mr. Terrell married Miss Lee of Mineral County, West Virginia, and they have a daughter, Barbara Lee.

Service provided by the staff of the Ohio County Public Library in partnership with and funded in part by the Wheeling National Heritage Area Corporation.

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