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Local author James Casto has new book called 'Legendary Locals of Huntington'

Jan. 06, 2013 @ 10:00 PM

HUNTINGTON -- His name is already over the local history room at the Cabell County Public Library, but James E. Casto certainly isn't resting on his laurels.

Also a member of the Huntington Wall of Fame, he has been mining local history archives to put together a new book that is like a who's who of Huntington past and present.

"Legendary Locals of Huntington," the 125-page book ($21.99, Arcadia Publishing), is out today and is the latest addition to Arcadia Publishing's new Legendary Locals imprint.

Casto, who has now completed five books for Arcadia as well as many other local history books, will be doing two book-signings from 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 12, at Empire Books & News in Pullman Square and 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 17, at The Red Caboose, Heritage Station, Huntington.

A 40-year-veteran editor for The Herald-Dispatch, Casto, now the associate director for public information at the Robert C. Byrd Institute for Advanced Flexible Manufacturing (RCBI) said he was intrigued by the idea of putting together a book of his hometown's greatest heroes from doctors and politicians to entertainers, athletes, civic stalwarts, restaurateurs and raconteurs.

"It seems like I'm always hearing people complain about what's 'wrong' with Huntington," Casto said. "I'd like to think that my new book is a small effort at portraying what's 'right' with Huntington. Yes, it has its share of problems, but the community remains exactly what it's been for more than 140 years - a great place to live, work and raise a family. And that's true thanks to the efforts of people like those who are celebrated in 'Legendary Locals of Huntington.' "

Organized in 10 chapters, the book shines a broad light on Huntington's most famous and impacting citizenry.

While many are well known around the world from John Marshall to J. Mark McVey, some have long been forgotten, and Casto felt they needed to be reintroduced to new generations.

"I enjoyed throwing a few people in who are not household names but who, the crazy guy that I am, think are important," Casto said.

On page 103, you can find two of those once famous but since passed celebrities, Mel Gillispie, "Mr. Music," who had a nationally traveling big band, and James Hetzer, who after entertaining on the front lines in WWII as a tap dancer, came home to Huntington to run Hetzer Theatrical Productions that produced continuous nationally traveling tours and shows for more than 40 years.

Casto said the design of "Legendary Locals" appealed to him as the book features many cut-out and large photos of action shots of everyone from Chad Pennington to world famous wildlife illustrator Chuck Ripper.

He said the book would not be possible without being able to use photographs from the deep archival wells at The Herald-Dispatch, Special Collections at Marshall University, Huntington Quarterly and WSAZ.

Casto, who performs a living history portrayal of Huntington's founder and railroad tycoon Collis P. Huntington, said he squeezed in as many photos and people as he could, some 200 photos in 125 pages.

He knows, however, that the book could not include everyone who has made an impact.

"There was no committee to make the choices as to who to put into the book, the choices were solely mine," Casto said. "I know some people will look at the book and say 'why didn't you put in so and so' but the book only had so many pages and I could have easily done 100 more but it was all I had room for... I don't know that the book will have any long-lasting impact but it would be nice if it does."

Huntington's Heroes

WHAT: "Legendary Locals of Huntington" by James E. Casto, is the latest addition to Arcadia Publishing's new Legendary Locals imprint"

WHEN: Monday, Jan. 7

WHERE: Go online at www.arcadiapublishing.com and click on "Legendary Locals."

HOW MUCH: $21.99 through Arcadia or you can order an autographed copy by sending your check for $27 (includes postage and handling) to James E. Casto, 6233 Highland Drive, Huntington, WV 25705

THE SIGNINGS: 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 12, at Empire Books & News in Pullman Square and 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 17, at The Red Caboose, Heritage Station, Huntington.

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