Roy L. Cooke, one of the originalRocket Boysand president of the Miners Day Memorial Association, will speak at West Virginia Universitys Miners Day celebration at 7 p.m. Wednesday (Dec. 5) in the Mountainlair Blue Ballroom. The presentation is free and open to the public.

Cooke grew up in Coalwood, where his father worked in the mine. In the 1950s, he and his friends at Big Creek High School formed the Big Creek Missile Agency and built and launched homemade rockets. They were known as theRocket Boysmade famous in Homer Hickams book and the 1999 movieOctober Sky.

Cooke is a graduate of the University of Maryland and the American Institute of Banking in Washington, D.C. He has served as president of Carolina Domestic Coal and a managing member of Cooke&Moses.

In addition, he maintains a wide range of civic and business interests in the Appalachian area and was named a Distinguished West Virginian in 1999.

Following Cookes talk, activities will include a special performance by three of WVU s Mountaineer Idol finalists, and WVU faculty and staff members Ray Hicks, Kenneth Landreth, Marianne Kovatch and Chris Haddox will entertain the audience with old-time fiddle tunes and coal mining songs.

WVU alumnus and international mine safety advocate J. Davitt McAteer, former head of the Mine Safety and Health Administration, will attend Wednesdays Miners Day celebration. The WVU Press ( will be showcasing and selling McAteers new book,Monongah: The Tragic Story of the 1907 Mine Disaster.

The goal of the WVU program isto help to preserve and promote the history of diverse mining people and their vibrant cultures in West Virginia and throughout the United States,said coordinator Sonja Wilson, whose husband, Mark, worked in the coal mines for 10 years.

My dad worked in the coal mines. My grandpa had black lung,she said.I think a lot of people have somebodyfamily, friendswho worked in the coal mines, so I think its something important to all of us in Appalachia, especially in West Virginia.

Cookes presentation at WVU coincides with Miners Day, a state event honoring miners. The West Virginia Legislature adopted a bill designating Dec. 6 as Miners Day following an online grassroots petition.

West Virginia was lucky enough to have this holiday adopted last year,Wilson said,so we want to keep it fresh in everyones mind. My goal is to do something every year on or around this day.

For more information on West Virginia Miners Day, visit