Biography of Raymond Joseph Funkhouser

Raymond Joseph Funkhouser, an influential industrialist, publisher, and philanthropist from Ranson, West Virginia, played a crucial role in the economic development of the Shenandoah Valley. Born in Cherry Run, West Virginia, in 1893, he planned his career meticulously from a young age, culminating in ownership of numerous businesses, including the O’Sullivan Rubber Corporation. Funkhouser’s impact extended beyond business to public service, restoration of historic landmarks, and political activism. His philanthropic efforts are highlighted by the R. J. Funkhouser Foundation, supporting various charitable endeavors. Funkhouser’s personal life included three marriages and five children.

Raymond Joseph Funkhouser
Raymond Joseph Funkhouser

One of the dominant figures of the Shenandoah Valley, Raymond Joseph Funkhouser of Ranson, West Virginia, is an industrialist, publisher and philanthropist, whose remarkable career is a triumph of planning. It has culminated in his ownership of no less than thirteen corporations, many of which are integral factors in the economy of the Valley, although others are identified with various parts of the country. His name has been no less well known in public life—as legislator, as a constructive influence in good government, but primarily as a powerful champion of individual initiative and opponent of the socialistic trends of welfare government.

Probably the most unique fact in the life of the man whose individual efforts have largely revived the town of Ranson is that his career is the realization of the schedule he blueprinted for himself as a boy of thirteen. He was born in Cherry Run, West Virginia, son of Newton and Mary (Loman) Funkhouser, his father being a storekeeper in that small community. During his boyhood, the family moved from Cherry Run, and settled almost directly across the Potomac, on the Maryland side, in the town of Big Pool. It was from there that “R. J.,” as he prefers to be called, set out upon his ambitious career, planning each step with meticulous detail and foresight. Satisfied with an elementary schooling, so far as formal education was concerned, he entered the business world at the age of nineteen. Relying on his own abilities and initiative, he realized every one of his plans. His boyhood blueprint had called for an office on Fifth Avenue, a home on Park, many business enterprises scattered throughout the land, and retirement to the more abundant life of a country squire in his native West Virginia at the age of fifty. In its actual realization his goal was exceeded. At the time of his retirement—exactly on schedule—he had offices and businesses in many parts of the nation, a penthouse and other apartments both in Baltimore and New York, and was the owner of the O’Sullivan Building, Baltimore’s most impressive skyscraper, named for the O’Sullivan Rubber Corporation, of which Mr. Funkhouser is chairman of the board. He continues as owner and operator of thirteen corporations, and is in control of seventeen. Among the more important of these, particularly in connection with the commercial life of the Shenandoah Valley, are the following: The Funkhouser Company, of Hagerstown, Maryland, manufacturers of roofing granules; The O’Sullivan Rubber Corporation, of Winchester, Virginia, mentioned above (of this concern, which manufactures the famous O’Sullivan Rubber Heels, a separate individual record is to be found in this history); The Victor Products Corporation, of Hagerstown, Maryland, manufacturers of commercial refrigeration products, including home freezers.

Mr. Funkhouser is also identified, in official capacity, with the Blakeley Bank and Trust Company, of Ranson. His enterprises have done much to rebuild and revive the town of Ranson.

But of all Mr. Funkhouser’s interests, his favorite is his weekly newspaper, “The Jefferson Republican.” This began its history as a four-page political monthly, distributed free to all interested parties, through the tireless efforts of his secretary of many years, Miss Kitty Linthicum. Today it has subscribers in each of the forty-eight states and in several foreign countries. Editor-in-chief Funkhouser takes an active and personal part in its production, saying that it is more than a newspaper, that it is “a crusade against the creeping socialism of our times.” In line with this crusading policy, he has gathered around him men who feel as he does, and these comprise the paper’s editorial staff. Frequent conferences with “R. J.” clarify the issues on which the newspaper will take a stand. Matters are thoroughly threshed out in conference, but never does its editor-in-chief attempt to dictate policy to his aides. He respects them when their views differ from his. This is not meant to imply that any statements favoring the “Fair Deal” are likely to find their way into the editorial columns of “The Jefferson Republican.”

To state that Mr. Funkhouser retired, “on schedule,” with no conditioning clauses, is apt to prove misleading. He withdrew, it is true, from the bulk of his ramified business enterprises. But what to him has constituted retirement is a condition of activity and influence which few men achieve. An initial disrupting factor in his plan was the outbreak, in Europe, of World War II; and after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Mr. Funkhouser went about converting his business enterprises into war industries and stepped back into the thick of things, often working until midnight so that vital shipments might go out to the armed forces on time. He has held to the schedule then established, and has never got around to further steps in the direction of retirement. While the war was on, and the Funkhouser Industries on wartime schedule, he undertook an ambitious and effective program of building. Homes were restored, stores built. A shopping center, called The Charles Washington Shops, was erected, and adjacent to it a modern motion picture theater which compares favorably with leading playhouses in metropolitan areas. This is a small part of what Mr. Funkhouser’s return has meant to the area. When he resumed residence there in 1939, many of its business buildings were closed. Today, every one is open. He brought an annual payroll of nearly a million dollars to the five thousand people of the Charles Town-Ranson area. His influence is to be seen, too, in its land values. Scientific farming and stock production in the region of the Washington properties have doubled, tripled or quadrupled the worth of these farms.

His influence is notable, too, in the preservation of some of Jefferson County’s historic landmarks. Many of the homes of the Washington family, two belonging to full brothers of President George Washington, were run down and almost in ruins. These he acquired, and devoted himself to their restoration. The most magnificent of all, “Claymont Court”—called by many the noblest house in all the Shenandoah—he has made his residence. It is a thirty-four room mansion, built by the first President’s grandnephew, Bushrod Corbin Washington, in 1820. The remaining four restorations are “Happy Retreat” in Charles Town, built in 1780 by the Revolutionary General’s youngest brother, Charles; “Blakeley,” where Mr. Funkhouser’s son Justin resides and raises thoroughbred race horses, the house having been built in 1820 by John Augustine Washington, III; “Cedar Lawn,” erected in 1825 by another Washington grandnephew, John Thornton Augustine Washington; and “Locust Hill,” presented to Lucy Washington Packette in 1840, now the home of Mr. Funkhouser’s daughter, Dolores (Mrs. Roy Steeley), and her family. He has opened his own spacious manor and “Happy Retreat” to the general public, free of charge, and even furnishes a guide service, as a gesture of recognition to Jefferson County’s place in history.

This nonprofit program is financed by a unique plan—the R. J. Funkhouser Foundation. Its purpose is to finance the Washington Homes venture and other public and quasi-public projects of a charitable nature during the lifetime of their benefactor and after his death. A shopping center was established in Ranson, comprising a grocery store, drug store, beauty parlor, real estate and insurance office, bank, and ready-to-wear shop. These, with the exception of the bank, are part of Funkhouser Industries, Inc., which likewise controls “The Jefferson Republican.” Their profits go into a common cash register to be turned over to the Foundation. During the past summer, the Foundation purchased the old Ranson residence and presented it to the Ranson Helpers Club.

Mr. Funkhouser’s political philosophy is based on the belief that the “New Deal” and “Fair Deal” have been exactly opposite to the American tradition. He has felt that the governmental trend is toward a socialistic state, and that it was his duty to get into the political fight and do all he could to oppose this trend. He had been a Democrat most of his life, having once been elected to the Maryland legislature on that party’s ticket; but at the advent of the “New Deal” he stood as a Republican in opposition to it. He announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination for United States Senator from West Virginia. The state’s Republican organization, however, opposed him, and after a heated campaign, he lost the election by a slim margin of one hundred and twenty-four votes—a remarkable achievement in view of the political predispositions of the area. Again by a slender margin, he lost the governorship of his state; but although he has terminated his career as participant in political campaigns, he is as effective as ever in combating the views of the present federal administration through the columns of “The Jefferson Republican.”

His charities have been of such proportions as never to have been accurately measured. It is known that he has not taken a penny in personal profit from his many ventures during the past decade. He reveres America’s past, and has confidence in her future only if she will profit by that past. As a loyal resident of West Virginia and Jefferson County, it is his wish to see both properly evaluated in the American scene, and to this end he is devoting his time and fortune. Earlier in his career, he played a significant part in the public life of other regions of the country. He formerly served in the State Legislature of Maryland, and was at one time mayor of the city of Harrison, in New York State.

Mr. Funkhouser is fraternally affiliated with the Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, in which he has attained the Thirty-second degree; and is also a member of the Woodmen of the World. He is a member of

the Opequon Golf Club of Martinsburg, West Virginia, and of the Fountain Head Country Club, Hagerstown, Maryland. A deeply religious man and a keen student of the Bible, he is affiliated with the United Brethren Church. On May 27, 1951, Alderson-Broaddus College, of Philippi, West Virginia, awarded Mr. Funkhouser the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws for “creativity in the field of restoration of colonial life in the eastern area of our state and for actual leadership in making West Virginia a better state.”

Raymond Joseph Funkhouser has been married three times, each marriage having terminated in divorce. He married, first, Merle Tice; second, Ruth Goodwin; and third, Flora Morningstar. He is the father of five children: 1. Avis (Funkhouser) Fithian. 2. Justin. 3. Dolores (Funkhouser) Steeley. 4. Geraldine (Funkhouser) Cain. 5. Jacqualin (Funkhouser) Wysong.


Couper, Wm. (William), History of the Shenandoah Valley, Family and Personal Records, vol. III, New York, Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc., 1952.

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