Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center appoints Wes Addington, long-time ACLC employee and Black Lung attorney, as Executive Director. Read more about this exciting transition in a letter from Wes below.

For Immediate Release


Dear Friends,

After 14 years working at Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center, it is my honor and privilege to step into the role of Director. Throughout my time at ACLC, it has been meaningful to work in an area of law so closely linked to my family and community. I come from a family of coalminers, and I grew up listening to stories of mine accidents and hearing the rattle in older miners’ lungs. Little did I know, I would soon spend my career working on these issues.

At ACLC, our work encompasses several critical concerns affecting our region. Our attorneys help coalminers receive the black lung benefits they need and deserve, fight for safety protections for current miners, represent communities struggling with poor water quality and toxic waste, and support legislation that will help our coalfield communities for years to come.

In Martin County, ACLC’s Deputy Director Mary Cromer has helped community members hold their public officials accountable in their fight for clean water. In Estill County, Mary has represented community members who exposed illegal dumping near a local school. ACLC’s policy coordinator Eric Dixon brought coalminers to Washington, DC twice this year to meet with legislators about the importance of the RECLAIM Act and the Black Lung Excise Tax.

With black lung disease reaching epidemic levels, Evan Smith, Steve Sanders, and I have taken on more federal black lung benefits cases than ever before. Though the coal industry has faced rapid decline, an increasing number of miners, some of whom retired decades earlier, are walking through our doors with complicated black lung disease. Complicated black lung is a severe form of the disease that has appeared in unprecedented levels in recent years, making our work as important as ever.

There are ongoing environmental issues impacting this region, and we will continue to advocate for healthy communities, safer working conditions, and the rights of sick miners and their widows.  I am very proud of the work ACLC has accomplished this past year and every year before, and I look forward to continuing and expanding our work in 2019.


Wes Addington


Please read below to learn more about our recent staff transitions:


Mary Cromer, long-time staff attorney at ACLC, is moving into the position of Deputy Director. Mary’s work focuses on environmental justice causes affecting Southeast Kentucky and Southwest Virginia. In addition to maintaining her case load, Mary will assist Wes in managing the law center.

We are excited to welcome attorney Micheal K. Amburgey to ACLC. Mike previously worked in Virginia on Workers’ Compensation claims for miners.  He attended the Appalachian School of Law and Alice Lloyd College. Mike grew up in Whitesburg, and he recently moved back to his hometown to work with us. He will be working predominately on federal black lung cases for ACLC.

Hilary Miles recently stepped into the role of Development Director at ACLC. Previously, she spent several years working on issues of food access at farmers markets in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mississippi. Hilary is passionate about rural issues and the environment, and she’s excited to work on fundraising and communications for ACLC.

Matthew Carter is our newest paralegal and has come on to assist our attorneys on federal black lung cases. Matt was previously the Program Director for WMMT FM at Appalshop, and though he’s originally from Pike County, he has lived in Whitesburg for the past ten years. Matt is learning the details of federal black lung cases and supporting our attorneys in many aspects of their work.

Steve Sanders had a long, meaningful career, and we send our warmest congratulations on a job well done as he moves into retirement this year. Steve founded ACLC in 2001 and built the organization from the ground up. Without Steve, ACLC would not have the strong foundation and excellent legacy that it has today.

Evan B. Smith has done fantastic work for the five years he spent at ACLC. He started here as a Skadden Fellow, and then as a full-time staff attorney. Evan has taken a new position at AppalReD in Prestonsburg, and though we hate to see him go, we wish him well in his new position.