CHARLESTON, W.Va. - In the hectic last hours of the 1963 legislative session, with lawmakers warring over "blue laws" and election procedures, members of the West Virginia Senate and House of Delegates came together to give the state something it had long lacked.
Fifty years ago today, the state's 56th Legislature passed a resolution adopting old gold and blue as the Mountain State's official state colors. The move received unanimous support.
The state had used blue and gold in an unofficial capacity for years, since that was the scheme chosen by its flagship school, West Virginia University.
The school adopted its color scheme around 1890.
John Cuthbert, a librarian at the WVU Library's West Virginia and Regional History Collection, said it is not exactly clear why the university picked old gold and blue, but an apocryphal story says the colors are a reference to the state's flag.
The state legislature authorized West Virginia's first flag in 1864. While details sometimes varied, all the flags were made of dark blue silk and featured gold fringe.
Cuthbert said WVU student newspapers began making references to the colors around 1890, although he suspects they probably were being used even earlier.
Use of the university colors was almost uniform throughout the state by the early 20th Century, according to a 1929 edition of the West Virginia Encyclopedia. Many residents even considered blue and gold the official state colors. But they were not.
So, in commemoration of the state's 100th birthday, legislators drafted a resolution.
"Be it resolved ... that the colors of old gold and blue be now and hereafter designated and displayed as the official state colors of the state of West Virginia."
Both houses adopted the resolution on March 8, 1963, the last day of that year's legislative session.
That same year, the state Division of Motor Vehicles issued a special centennial license plate with reflective yellow numbers on a blue background.
Natalie Harvey, spokeswoman for the DMV, said West Virginia issued its first license plate in 1906 but had never set a defined color scheme. Some years the plates were black with red letters. Other times the license plates were yellow and black, or just black and white.
The DMV issued its first blue and gold plate in 1957, but the design didn't stick. In 1958, license plates were green and white. Since 1963, however, every standard license plate has featured some combination of blue and gold.