As West Virginia University continues tear-down and removal of Stansbury Hall, Morgantown spoke with descendants about the life and legacy of the man the hall was named after, Harry A. Stansbury. Below we share the story of the time in 1920 when Stansbury suffered a bizarre and unlikely injury on the field. For our entire story on Stansbury be sure to purchase a copy of our August/September issue.
April 12, 1964
written by A.L. Hardman
In 1920, WVU Athletic Director Harry Stansbury was walking across the old athletic field when a student speared him with a javelin.
Stansbury recalled, “Out of the corner of my right eye, I saw the javelin coming, turned my head away from it and the spear (8 feet, 2 inches long) with a steel point, glanced off my shoulder, striking me in the neck, about an inch from my jugular vein.
“It picked up perhaps a half inch of flesh and skin at the deepest penetration, and came out about five inches further ‘west,’ so to speak, after passing above my Adam’s apple in such fashion as to half choke me. …
Battles to Avoid Choking
“Its force knocked me down flat, and in the act of falling I grabbed the javelin with my right hand and held it in such a fashion as to prevent its choking me completely.
“Everybody from Nate Cartmell (the track coach and football trainer) to Stockton Gaines, who threw the javelin (about 140 feet from where it struck me) tried to help me.
“But with a few well chosen cuss words, I made it clear that nobody except me could do this job. I walked clear across the campus, down the tree-covered ‘Lover’s Lane’ past Woodburn Hall to the medical school where the only doctor around was a famous pathologist. …
Pulled Out of Neck Backwards
“The doctor examined the situation and saw that the jugular vein was a safe distance from the spear, etc., and that it could be safely pulled out—backwards.
“He tried but became ill and had to give way to Cartmell, who placed his knee against my side; his left two-fingered hand against the side of my face and pulled HARD. So out it came.
“I don’t believe they used any anesthetic. In any event, they then placed iodine swabs on wires and pulled them to and fro through the hole the javelin had made. …
Worked in His Garden
“After this I went home with a big towel wrapped around some bandages and giving the appearance of heading for the Arctic.
“Ms. Stansbury said, ‘What in the world happened to you?'”
“I replied, ‘I damn near got killed.'”