August 15, 2018
We all know someone whose life takes turns and tumbles, whose moves in careers and locations form the story of one of the most interesting people you know. At Legal Aid of West Virginia, we have our fair share of those individuals, too. But of all the employees at LAWV, Sam Kasley probably had the longest—and most tumultuous—journey to our doors. Sam now works in our Lewisburg office as a staff attorney, his second career in life, and he doesn’t show any definitive signs of slowing down.
Sam is a native of Wheeling, WV, and went onto WVU after high school. It was there that he met his wife, Doris Walters, who grew up in Weirton, WV. During his time in Morgantown, Sam didn’t just find his life partner; he also graduated with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering, which he followed up with a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from Clemson University in South Carolina.
His career in chemical engineering took him places, mainly Michigan, where he and Doris had three children, Sam Kasley III, Marc, and Susan, and Sam became a life member of the Scottville Clown Band in his free time (this marching band is known as “The Big Noise from Scottville” and is an opportunity for musicians of all professions to dress in bright colors and play exuberant music for all who will listen).
After 42 years as a chemical engineer, Sam and Doris retired to Wheeling, where Sam decided retirement didn’t suit him. “So I enrolled in law school at WVU,” he says, nonchalantly. Sam's daughter, Susan, also went to law school and is now a circuit court judge in Michigan. Susan provided significant guidance in developing his legal prowess. "I called her frequently while I was in law school to ask for help," Sam says.
After a successful first year, the Kasleys spent the summer in Rome, and Sam used the time to take law classes through Temple University. Law school also meant internships—two of them—at the public defender offices in Lewisburg and Weirton. After taking a year and a half off from law school to fight—and defeat—Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, Sam graduated from WVU’s law school in 2008.
With his newly minted law degree, Sam reached out to his local LAWV office in Wheeling and offered his services. “They welcomed me there,” he says. He volunteered for 2 years before being offered a permanent position in LAWV’s Beckley office, a 53-mile commute from Alderson, where the Kasleys own a bed and breakfast. Sam felt he couldn’t turn down the opportunity, so they moved to Alderson. In 2016, the Lewisburg office needed an attorney, and Sam filled the vacancy, which cut his commute down significantly.
Sam and Doris Kasley's three grandsons.
In Alderson, Sam has put down community roots beyond owning the Old Victorian Inn, the B&B across from Alderson’s historic train depot. He’s on the board of directors of Hospitality House, which provides low-cost or free room and board to those visiting the inmates of the all-female Federal Prison Camp in Alderson. He’s also the vice chair of the Town of Alderson Planning Commission.
You would think with all he has going on, his time would be filled, but Sam still finds time to participate in fitness competitions like the Ironman Triathlons, play bridge with his friends and family, and restore old cars like his 1924 Dodge Brothers and 1930 and 1936 Plymouths. He’s also a private pilot with an instrument license and spends as much time as possible with his three children and three grandchildren, or as he calls them, “naturally, the most terrific grandsons in the world.”
Sam has gained a reputation at LAWV of being an international man of mystery—and for good reason, as you can tell. But he’s also got a reputation with clients and co-workers alike of being a kind, considerate, fierce advocate for West Virginians.
“The biggest thing I have learned is the large number of people in our society who exist, somehow, on very low incomes,” he says. “I chose Legal Aid because I wanted to work with people who could not afford legal help. The most important aspect of our work is getting a fair deal for people who likely would not without our help."