LOGAN - "He was very honest. He treated my as well as if I had been a son." Those are just some of the things that Logan County Prosecuting Attorney John Bennett had to say about longtime Logan lawyer Edward I. Eiland, who died Sunday at his home in Middleburg at the age of 99.
Born Feb. 3, 1920, Eiland was a well-respected member of the Logan community whose law career spanned seven decades - his practice still operating well into his 90s. Eiland was very active in the Kiwanis Club of Logan, the Logan County Chamber of Commerce, American Legion Post 19, the Salvation Army, musicals produced by The Aracoma Story Inc. from 1980-2011 and Logan Wildcats athletics.
He was also a member of the WVU Alumni Marching Band, with Bennett remarking that Eiland would "run onto the field" as late as 2011.
A 1938 graduate of Logan High School, Eiland was in law school when he enlisted into the U.S. Marine Corps in 1942 during World War II. He served in the Pacific in the 4th Marine Division, which received a Presidential Unit Citation with one Bronze Star Medal and an Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with four Bronze Campaign Stars, with landings on Kwajalein Atoll, Saipan, Tinian and Iwo Jima.
Eiland was a recipient of the Silver Star Medal and the Purple Heart for wounds he received during his time on Saipan.
After the war, Eiland returned to his studies and graduated from the WVU College of Law. His legal career officially began Nov. 18, 1948. His practice "did a little bit of everything except divorces," Bennett said.
From 1952-56, he served as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Logan County and was a mental hygiene commissioner for Logan County and city attorney for Logan and Mitchell Heights for many years.
He served as a member of the American Bar Association, the West Virginia Bar Association, the West Virginia State Bar, the Logan County Bar Association, the State Bar Board of Governors and the State Bar long-range planning committee. He also served as chairman of the Character Committee for the 7th State Bar District and as biographer for the West Virginia Bar Association.
Bennett, who is originally from Weirton in the northern panhandle, worked with Eiland - eventually becoming his partner in the practice - for 33 years before first being elected as prosecuting attorney in 2008. Bennett moved to Logan in 1975 just after graduating from WVU Law.
Bennett said he sent resumes to about 20 small-town West Virginia lawyers and got an interview with Eiland.
"I just picked his name out of a book," he said.
Bennett remembers his longtime friend and partner as a man of honesty and integrity.
"He was always very courteous. He was a true gentleman," Bennett said. "He would always tip his hat to all the women. He would hold doors open for them. He was always honest.
"He reminded me a lot of my dad, the type of things they had been through, the way they were honest," he added. "They'd never lie, they always told the truth, whether it helped them or hurt them. He always did the right thing. He'd tell me sometimes, 'That might be legally correct or proper, but we're not going to do that because it's not right, and if a client doesn't like it, tell them to get another lawyer.' That's the way he always was."
Bennett later added that Eiland was a humble man who lived modestly and treated everyone with respect. When Bennett first came to town, Eiland went as far as arranging an apartment for him.
"I'd be in (the office) working (in the evenings), and he'd look at me and say, 'What are you doing? You need to be home,' " Bennett said. "Instead of demanding more work out of me, he was more concerned that I spent time with her, and then later when the children came along, more time with them."
Throughout the years, Eiland was honored for his many years of community service. In November 2009, WSAZ-TV named him as their "Hometown Hero" and the City of Logan proclaimed Nov. 19 as Ed Eiland Day. More recently, the Middleburg Bridge was named for him.
Eiland is preceded in death by his wife, Evelyn; his son, Peter; sisters, Margaret C. Caplan and Irene Eiland; and brothers, William W. Eiland, Theodore A. Eiland and Frederick S. Eiland. He is survived by 19 nieces and nephews and numerous friends and caregivers.