During the month of November, the Fairmont State University School of Fine Arts and the Frank and Jane Gabor West Virginia Folk Life Center will be commemorating the 50thanniversary of the 1968 Farmington Mine Disaster. This event had a devastating effect on Marion County and the surrounding area, but it also brought about changes in mine safety.
On Wednesday, November 7, Bob Campione, a local photographer, will talk about the images he took during the Farmington Mine Disaster while free-lancing for the Fairmont Times. Campione’s talk, “As Seen through the Camera: Reflections on the 1968 Farmington Mine Disaster”will begin at 7 p.m. at the Frank and Jane Gabor West Virginia Folklife Center. An exhibition of Mr. Campione’s photographs will run in November, December, and January in the Folklife Center.
A native of Fairmont, Campione was a young photographer who happened to be available to record the events of the 1968 Farmington Mine Disaster. Campione is a self-proclaimed “gear head” who became interested in photography when he was 12 years old. He mowed lawns, rakes leaves, and shoveled snow to make money to buy his first camera. Bob began working as a photographer at the Fairmont Times when he was just 15 years old. Just months before the explosion at Farmington, Campione had quit his job to do his student teaching at Fairmont State. He got a call from the Times editor, Mr. Bill Evans, on that fateful day. Mr. Evans insisted that he needed Campione to go with him to Farmington to take photographs. Little did he know that he would be spending 10 days documenting one of the most significant mining accidents in country’s history.
Campione taught elementary school in Marion County for two years before going into the automotive business for 12 years. Bob spent seven years working as the president and general manager of Computer Corner, the first Apple computer dealer in West Virginia. Later, he worked as an electrician for construction companies that contracted with coal mines. He also worked for General Electric. Campione started at GE as a technician and finished as a manager of global logistics. He finished his career working for West Virginia University. He had duties in various departments including housing, facilities management, and student organizations.
Using his photographs, Campione created a book about the 1968 Farmington Mine Disaster for Arcadia Press. It is available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble. He and his wife Andrea live in Morgantown. He has four grown children.
In the town of Farmington, WV, an explosion in Consolidated Coal’s No. 9 mine occurred on Wednesday, November 20, 1968. Seventy-eight miners were killed of the 99 that were working that day. Twenty-one men were rescued from the mine. Due to the vigorous spread of the fire, the mine was sealed off ten days after the explosion. This disaster led to the creation of the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969. By 1978, 59 bodies of the 78 men left in the mine were recovered.