West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture & History

West Virginia State Archives Announces Addition of Tanner J. Livisay Collection


CHARLESTON, W.Va. – West Virginia State Archives and History has added the Tanner J. Livisay Collection to its holdings. The collection chronicles the career of the noted home demonstration agent and extension service agent and the first African American family life specialist in the country.

The Livisay Collection includes materials from her 27 years with the West Virginia Cooperative Extension Service, 4-H materials, correspondence and resources produced after her retirement. Livisay chronicled the activities and people she met throughout her career, which began in 1940, and saved important documents, photographs and more. She preserved photographs of West Virginia Homemakers events, 4-H activities and exhibits, and instructional classes throughout West Virginia.

Beginning as a home demonstration agent in 1941, Livisay helped to improve the living conditions for many households within Mercer, McDowell and Wyoming counties. In 1945, she became a district home demonstrating agent, serving statewide until 1962. She left this position to become the state extension specialist in child development and human relations and assistant professor of home economics at West Virginia University until her retirement in 1968, eventually serving as the first African American family life specialist in the country. As an extension specialist, she represented the Mountain State at national conferences and served as a member of the West Virginia Council of the White House Conference on Children and Youth. During her career, she developed a statewide health program, promoted youth leadership and organized a scholarship campaign for two historically black colleges in the state (West Virginia State College and Bluefield State College). In 1976, she was inducted into the West Virginia Agricultural Hall of Fame. Her book Reaching Out with Heart and Hand – The Memories of an Extension Worker, published in 1994, is the account of her experiences with the West Virginia Extension Service for African Americans.

The online finding aid for the collection can be found at http://www.wvculture.org/history/collections/manuscripts/ms2018-001.html.

For additional information, contact the Archives and History Library at (304) 558-0230.



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