Nicewonder joins to accept his 2009 award at annual meeting in Glade Springs
CHARLESTON – The West Virginia Coal Association and the West Virginia Coal Mining Institute are proud to name Thomas W. Howard and James Lewis Laurita (Jim, Sr.) as the 2010 inductees to the West Virginia Coal Hall of Fame. Laurita and Howard were joined in accepting the award by Don Nicewonder, who received his 2009 induction. Nicewonder had been unable to attend this past year.
“This is the highest honor our industry can bestow,” said Bill Raney, president of the West Virginia Coal Association. “This award is given to people who devote a lifetime of service to our industry and our state.  I am so proud to be able to say I know these three gentlemen and count them as friends. They are gentlemen in every sense of the word. They embody the very best of our industry. Their lives of hard work, commitment to excellence and commitment to the state and its people truly light the way for the rest of us to follow.”

Thomas W. Howard is a native of Mount Hope, WV and lives there today with Betty, his wife of nearly 62 years.  They have three children and six grandsons. His children are:  Thomas W. Howard, II, M.D of Hurricane, Linda D. Brown of Mount Hope, and Charles Howard, P.E. of Morgantown.  Tom has had a wonderful and interesting career in the coal industry and has fond memories of the folks he’s worked with over the span of more than 60 years. 
A veteran of World War II, where he served in U.S. Navy in Asia, Howard became interested in the coal industry at an early age.
After leaving the service in 1946, Tom returned to West Virginia and enrolled at West Virginia University, ultimately obtaining his Master’s Degree in Mining Engineering.  He took his first job in the mining industry in 1949.
In 1961, Tom formed his own consulting mining engineering firm - Thomas W. Howard, Inc. and continued in the engineering business for 47 years until late 2008 when successor firm, Howard Engineering, Inc. was formed.  It is now owned and operated by his son Charles, a 1983 graduate of WVU.
James Lewis Laurita is a native of Morgantown and has lived there his entire life.  Like Howard, he is a veteran of the U.S. Navy.  While stationed in Washington, DC he met the love of his life, his wife Beverly.  They are blessed with two sons, James Jr., and Thomas, and a daughter Toni.  All three children are very active in the family businesses in Morgantown.
After being discharged from the Navy in 1959, Jim joined his father and his brother in purchasing three coal trucks and forming a trucking business hauling from various Morgantown-area coal companies to markets in northern West Virginia and southwestern Pennsylvania.  Over the next twenty years the father and sons grew their trucking business and expanded into contract excavation and property development.  Another brother, Joseph Jr. joined the family business during the 1970’s. 
In 2000, Jim sold his mining operations to his children.  The children were already highly involved with the family business, with Jim Jr. assuming increasing responsibility and growing the mining operations, Tom managing a successful excavation business, and Toni managing the books of the many Laurita companies. Jim felt it was time to step aside and allow his children to take the lead.
Don Nicewonder joined Laurita and Howard, officially accepting his induction of 2009. Nicewonder was unable to attend last year’s ceremony. Nicewonder spent more than fifty years in the coal industry before selling his mining interests in 2005.  He owned and operated multiple coal operations in West Virginia, Virginia and Kentucky, including White Flame Energy, Premium Energy and Twin Star Mining.   His operations received numerous safety and reclamation awards, including winning West Virginia’s highest reclamation award four times.
Creating post-mine opportunities for the communities in which he operated was a priority for Nicewonder.   He developed the world-class Twisted Gun Golf Course on the former Premium Energy mine in Wharncliffe, West Virginia; saved the State of West Virginia hundreds of millions of dollars by constructing approximately 15 miles of the King Coal Highway between Gilbert and Williamson, West Virginia; and, provided land for the future construction of an airport and a new consolidated high school near Ragland, West Virginia.
The West Virginia Coal Association, the West Virginia Coal Mining Institute and the West Virginia Mining and Reclamation Association established the Coal Hall of Fame in 1998. 
The Mineral Resources Building of the WVU College of Engineering and Mineral Resources in Morgantown is home to the Coal Hall of Fame. Individual plaques bearing the names of each of the inductees are on permanent display in the building's atrium. In addition, a photograph of each member hangs in the first-floor hallway of the facility.