Jim Justice

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Jim Justice
Jim Justice 2017 InaugurationHighlights PB-63 (32366955776) (cropped).jpg
36th Governor of West Virginia
Assumed office
January 16, 2017
Preceded byEarl Ray Tomblin
Personal details
James Conley Justice II

(1951-04-27) April 27, 1951 (age 68)
Charleston, West Virginia, U.S.
Political partyRepublican (before 2015, 2017–present)
Democratic (2015–2017)
Cathy Comer (m. 1975)
ResidenceGovernor's Mansion (official)*
EducationUniversity of Tennessee
Marshall University (BA, MBA)
Net worthIncreaseUS$1.6 billion (2017)[1]
WebsiteGovernment website
Note: Justice resides in Lewisburg, West Virginia and does not live in the official residence.

James Conley Justice II (born April 27, 1951) is an American coal mining and agriculture businessman and politician serving as the 36th governor of West Virginia since 2017. With a net worth of around $1.9 billion, he is the wealthiest person in West Virginia.[2] He inherited a coal mining business from his father and built a business empire with over 50 companies, including the Greenbrier, a luxury resort.[3]

In 2015, Justice announced his candidacy for governor in the 2016 West Virginia gubernatorial election. Although Justice was a registered Republican before running for governor, he ran as a Democrat and defeated the Republican nominee, Bill Cole. Less than seven months after taking office, Justice switched back to the Republican Party after announcing his plans at a rally with U.S. president Donald Trump in the state.

Early life

James Conley Justice II was born in Charleston, the son of James Conley Justice and Edna Ruth (née Perry) Justice. Justice grew up in Raleigh County, West Virginia. He enrolled at the University of Tennessee on an athletic scholarship for golf, but transferred to Marshall University. At Marshall, he was a two-year captain on the Thundering Herd golf team.[4] He earned his bachelor's degree and Master in Business Administration from Marshall.[5]

Business career

After college, Justice went into the family agriculture business.[5] Justice founded Bluestone Farms in 1977, which now operates 50,000 acres (20,000 ha) of farmland, and is the leading producer of grain on the East Coast of the United States. During that time, he also developed Stoney Brook Plantation, a 15,000-acre hunting and fishing preserve in Monroe County. Justice is a seven time national corn growing champion.[6] After the death of his father in 1993, Justice inherited ownership of Bluestone Industries and Bluestone Coal Corporation. In 2009, he sold some of his coal business to the Russian company Mechel for $568 million. In 2015, after a huge drop in the price of coal which led Mechel to close some of the mines, he bought the business back for just $5 million.[7][8] Since buying back the mine from Mechel, Justice re-opened several of the mines and hired over 200 coal miners.[9]

Justice's mining companies have been under the spotlight for alleged cases of safety violation and unpaid taxes; in 2016, NPR called him the "top mine safety delinquent" in the United States.[10] Justice allegedly owed millions of dollars to the government in back taxes, and unpaid coal mining fees and fines: "His mining companies owe $15 million in six states, including property and minerals taxes, state coal severance and withholding taxes, and federal income, excise and unemployment taxes, as well as mine safety penalties, according to county, state and federal records."[11]Two debt-related lawsuits were settled in 2019,[12] and in 2020 mining companies owned by Justice or his family agreed to pay $5 million in delinquent safety fines.[13]

Forbes estimates Justice's net worth at $1.6 billion.[14] Justice serves as the owner or chief executive officer of over 50 companies, including the Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, which he bought for $20.5 million in 2009, preventing its bankruptcy.[7] Justice is in the process of building a new mountain top golf course with golfers Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, and Lee Trevino. Arnold Palmer was involved before his 2016 death.[15]

As of 2014, he owned 70 active mines in 5 states. His charitable activities have included $25 million for the James C. Justice National Scout Camp at The Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve, $5 million for Marshall University, and $10 million to the Cleveland Clinic.[16] Justice gives away more than $1 million in Christmas gifts annually through the Dream Tree for Kids campaign.[17]

Before taking office as governor, Justice resigned from all the executive positions he held at his business. He placed his daughter Jill in charge of the Greenbrier and his son Jay in charge of his mining and agriculture businesses. He has said he will place all his assets in a blind trust, but that the process will take time because of their complexity.[18][19]

Political career

Jim and Cathy Justice meeting Vice President Mike Pence in March 2017

In 2015, Justice declared his candidacy for Governor of West Virginia in the 2016 election as a member of the Democratic Party.[7] He had been a registered member of the Republican Party until changing his registration in February 2015.[20] This was his first time running for political office.[21] In May 2016, Justice won the Democratic nomination for governor and ran against Republican nominee Bill Cole in the general election.[22] On November 8, Justice won the election.[23][24]

Justice was endorsed by the United Mine Workers.[25]

Governor of West Virginia

Justice at his inauguration

Justice took office as governor on January 16, 2017. He is known for using colorful metaphors and digs at political opponents.[26][27]

To improve West Virginia's budget situation, he has proposed raising the state's revenue by $450 million, primarily by increasing the consumer sales tax, reinstituting the business and occupation (B & O) tax, and establishing a "rich man's" tax.[28] He also opposed plans to cut health and education spending.[29] On April 13, 2017, while vetoing a budget bill passed by the Republican-controlled West Virginia Legislature, Justice said the bill was "nothing more than a bunch of political you-know-what" and showed a prop featuring bull feces on a print copy of the bill.[30]

On August 3, 2017, Justice announced that he had rejoined the Republican Party. He made the announcement at a Donald Trump rally in Huntington and also confirmed his support for the sitting president. Justice said that he was returning to the GOP because he could not support President Trump as a member of the Democratic Party. The announcement came as a surprise to his own staff.[31] This also made Justice the first Republican governor of West Virginia since Cecil Underwood in 2001.

Even after switching to the Republican Party, Justice initially supported incumbent Democrat Joe Manchin for his reelection campaign in the 2018 Senate election in West Virginia.[32] However, later in the general election, Justice endorsed Republican Senate candidate, Patrick Morrisey.[33]


Political positions

Justice began his gubernatorial campaign and political career as a conservative Democrat.[34][35] Time magazine identified him as a moderate Democrat.[36] However, as noted above, he switched to the Republican Party a few months after taking office and declared his support for President Donald Trump.[37]

Economic policy

Justice campaigned and has governed with support for the coal industry.[38] He does not support raising taxes, but has supported increasing teachers' salaries arguing that increased state revenue will pay for the increased budget spending.[39] In 2017, Justice said that he opposed budget cuts and supported raising sales taxes.[40] The libertarian Cato Institute gave Justice an "F" grade based on their positions, but Justice voiced his disagreement with the rating.[41]


Justice had said that he does not support abortion, but that the Supreme Court had decided the issue.[42] Later, Justice attended a rally supporting Amendment 1, a state constitutional amendment intended to ban abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned.[43][44] He is considered pro-life and signed two anti-abortion bills into law.[45]

Gun control

Justice supports gun ownership and limited gun laws. In 2018, Justice signed into a law a bill allowing gun owners to keep their guns locked in vehicles on their employers' property, a bill that was supported by the NRA.[46] He also signed a bill legalizing hunting on Sundays on private land.[47]


Justice supports West Virginia's Medicaid expansion, which was implemented by the previous governor under provisions of the Affordable Care Act.[48]

LGBTQ rights

Justice stated that he respects the Supreme Court's decision on Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage nationwide, and that it is settled law.[49] In 2017, Justice opposed a bill that would have allowed businesses to refuse service to LGBTQ customers.[50]

Environmental policy

According to the Charleston Gazette–Mail, Justice has equivocated on the scientific consensus on global warming. In a 2016 interview with the paper, he said: "There's documentation that would give one concern, and I don't think you should ignore that," he said. "At the same time, I think there's an awful lot of research that still should be done. [...] I surely wouldn't sit here and say I am a believer in global warming, but I wouldn't sit here and say that I am not concerned."[6] Since the interview, Justice has unequivocally stated that he does not believe climate change or global warming are caused by humans.[citation needed]

Personal life

Justice lives in Lewisburg, West Virginia. He is being sued about his residency by state house assistant minority whip Isaac Sponaugle, on the basis that Justice is not actually living in the West Virginia Governor's Mansion in Charleston. The state constitution requires the governor to "reside at the seat of government," Charleston. The lawsuit is now before the West Virginia State Supreme Court.[51]
He met his wife, Cathy (née Comer) in high school.[52] They have two children, Jay and Jill.[5] He stands at 6 feet and 7 inches.[53] Justice is a lifelong fan of the New Orleans Saints of the National Football League (NFL), and spent $30 million to develop a training facility for the team to use in 2014 at the Greenbrier.[7][14] He hosts the Greenbrier Classic, a PGA Tour event, at the Greenbrier annually.[7]

Youth sports

Since 1992, Justice has been president of Beckley Little League. His participation has helped the program expand to over 1,000 children playing on 80 teams.

Having lived in Lewisburg since 2001, he has been the girls basketball coach at Greenbrier East High School since 2003, having won the state championship in 2012. In 2011, he also became the head coach for the boys basketball teams, a position from which he stepped down in September 2017.[54] He was the only coach at the AAA level (the state's largest classification) who coached both the girls and boys basketball teams. Justice stated that though he will place his business interests in a blind trust upon becoming governor, he will still coach basketball while serving.[55] In discussing the coaching position, Justice said, "There are three things I know that I can do, and that's shoot a shotgun, make a deal and coach basketball. I'm excited about it."

Electoral history

2016 West Virginia gubernatorial election, Democratic primary[56]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Jim Justice 132,704 51.37%
Democratic Booth Goodwin 65,416 25.32%
Democratic Jeff Kessler 60,230 23.31%
Total votes 258,350 100.00%
2016 West Virginia gubernatorial election[57]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Jim Justice 350,408 49.09%
Republican Bill Cole 301,987 42.30%
Mountain Charlotte Pritt 42,068 5.89%
Libertarian David Moran 15,354 2.15%
Constitution Phil Hudok 4,041 0.57%
Total votes 713,858 100.00%
Democratic hold

See also


  1. ^ "Jim Justice, II". Retrieved April 5, 2018.
  2. ^ "Jim Justice, II". Forbes. Retrieved September 2, 2018.
  3. ^ "A West Virginia dancer performs during the first half at the WVU Coliseum". WV MetroNews. January 14, 2015. Retrieved May 14, 2017.
  4. ^ Houvouras, Jack (Winter 2010). "HQ&A with Jim Justice". Huntington Quarterly. Huntington, WV: HQ Publishing. Retrieved May 1, 2016.
  5. ^ a b c Tucker, Neely (March 6, 2011). "W.Va. billionaire Jim Justice's mission to restore the Greenbrier resort". Washington Post. Retrieved July 4, 2015.
  6. ^ a b Gutman, David. "Justice stresses big ideas over specifics in campaign". Charleston Gazette-Mail. Retrieved January 12, 2016.
  7. ^ a b c d e Eyre, Eric (May 11, 2015). "Greenbrier owner Jim Justice enters governor's race". The Charleston Gazette. Retrieved June 30, 2015.
  8. ^ Barrett, Paul (January 10, 2017). "Can West Virginia's New Governor Save Coal Country?". Retrieved August 4, 2017.
  9. ^ "Justice to put 200 miners back to work". Times West Virginian. Retrieved January 12, 2016.
  10. ^ Berkes, Howard. "Billionaire Gubernatorial Candidate Owes $15 Million In Taxes And Fines". Retrieved August 3, 2017.
  11. ^ "Billionaire Gubernatorial Candidate Owes $15 Million In Taxes And Fines". Retrieved April 5, 2018.
  12. ^ "Justice settles millions in out-of-state debt claims". WV MetroNews. July 19, 2019. Retrieved February 6, 2020.
  13. ^ Companies Tied To W.Va. Governor To Pay $5 Million In Mining Violations
  14. ^ a b Corbett, Jim (July 24, 2014). "Billionaire Jim Justice gives Saints lavish training camp". USA Today. Retrieved June 30, 2015.
  15. ^ "Justice lures golf legends to build mountaintop course near Greenbrier". Charleston Gazette-Mail. Retrieved January 12, 2016.
  16. ^ Berkes, Howard; Boiko-Weyrauch, Anna; Benincasa, Robert (November 15, 2014). "Billionaire Spent Millions In Charity, But Avoided Mine Fines". NPR. Retrieved June 30, 2015.
  17. ^ "Dream Tree for Kids distributes $1 million worth of gifts". Beckley Register-Herald. Retrieved January 12, 2016.
  18. ^ "Billionaire Gov. Jim Justice says he's pursuing blind trust; Commerce Secretary Thrasher files one". WV MetroNews. January 30, 2017. Retrieved August 4, 2017.
  19. ^ "Some of Justice's companies put in blind trust". Charleston Gazette-Mail. Retrieved August 4, 2017.
  20. ^ Maher, Kris (May 12, 2015). "Jim Justice, West Virginia Billionaire, Launches Campaign for Governor". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved June 30, 2015.
  21. ^ Jenkins, Jeff (May 11, 2015). "WV MetroNews – Jim Justice enters politics, announces 2016 run for governor". Retrieved August 7, 2015.
  22. ^ Raby, John (May 10, 2015). "Jim Justice wins Democratic nomination for West Virginia gov". The Herald-Dispatch. Retrieved May 10, 2016.[permanent dead link]
  23. ^ "Jim Justice wins WV gubernatorial race". Retrieved November 12, 2016.
  24. ^ "West Virginia Governor Results: Jim Justice Wins". The New York Times. August 1, 2017. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved February 6, 2020.
  25. ^ "UMWA endorses Jim Justice for governor". WV MetroNews. November 12, 2015. Retrieved January 12, 2016.
  26. ^ Jenkins, Jeff (March 6, 2017). "From 'knuckleheads' to 'blockheads' Justice still critical of legislature over budget". MetroNews. Retrieved April 14, 2017.
  27. ^ McElhinny, Brad (February 24, 2017). "Governor Justice calls himself a grizzly and Senate majority leader a poodle". MetroNews. Retrieved April 14, 2017.
  28. ^ Jenkins, Jeff (April 13, 2017). "Justice vetoes budget by unveiling bull manure". West Virginia MetroNews Network. Retrieved August 4, 2017.
  29. ^ Bidgood, Jess (May 1, 2017). "West Virginia's Governor, an 'Unusual Democrat,' Fights a G.O.P. Tide". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved August 4, 2017.
  30. ^ Stevenson, Peter W. (April 14, 2017). "The governor of West Virginia brought a plate of B.S. to the statehouse, literally". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 14, 2017.
  31. ^ Kabler, Phil (August 3, 2017). "WV Gov. Justice switching political parties, returning to GOP". Charleston Gazette. Retrieved August 4, 2017.
  32. ^ "WV MetroNews – Governor Justice, now Republican, tells Republicans he supports Manchin's Senate bid". September 20, 2017. Retrieved April 5, 2018.
    "GOP Gov. Jim Justice backs Democrat Joe Manchin for Senate". September 20, 2017. Retrieved April 5, 2018.
  33. ^ "Manchin and Justice exchange fire - again - over W.Va. road conditions". WV MetroNews. March 14, 2019. Retrieved July 2, 2019.
  34. ^ Brown, Andrew. "Jim Justice wins WV gubernatorial race". Charleston Gazette-Mail. Retrieved November 20, 2018.
  35. ^ "Is West Virginia Holding America's Weirdest Election?". POLITICO Magazine. Retrieved November 20, 2018.
  36. ^ "West Virginia Governor Switches Parties at Trump Rally". Time. Retrieved November 20, 2018.
  37. ^ Jedeur-Palmgren, Max. "Billionaire and WV Governor Jim Justice Switches To Republican at Trump Event". Forbes. Retrieved November 20, 2018.
  38. ^ "Trump: Praise for Justice and coal". POLITICO. Retrieved November 20, 2018.
  39. ^ "WV MetroNews – New spending proposals and a tax cut on Governor Justice's plate this year". January 11, 2018. Retrieved November 20, 2018.
  40. ^ "WV MetroNews – Governor Justice highlights improving state revenue". May 4, 2018. Retrieved November 20, 2018.
  41. ^ writer, Phil Kabler Staff. "Justice dismisses 'F' on Cato Institute report card on fiscal policy". Charleston Gazette-Mail. Retrieved November 20, 2018.
  42. ^ "Jim Justice on Abortion". Retrieved November 20, 2018.
  43. ^ "West Virginians to vote on amendment to constitution concerning abortion". WV News. Retrieved November 20, 2018.
  44. ^ writer, Lori Kersey Staff. "Anti-abortion proponents rally for Amendment 1". Charleston Gazette-Mail. Retrieved November 20, 2018.
  45. ^ "WV MetroNews – Pro-life lawmakers look to restrict taxpayer-funded abortions". January 12, 2018. Retrieved November 20, 2018.
  46. ^ MetroNews, The Associated Press, Bradford Arick, WSAZ News Staff. "UPDATE: W.Va. Gov. Justice signs 'parked guns' legislation". Retrieved November 20, 2018.
  47. ^ JOURNAL, Rusty Marks THE STATE. "Gov. Justice approves several gun-related bills". WV News. Retrieved November 20, 2018.
  48. ^ "Jim Justice on Health Care". Retrieved November 20, 2018.
  49. ^ Gutman, David. "Justice weighs in on same-sex marriage decision". Charleston Gazette-Mail. Retrieved November 20, 2018.
  50. ^ Beck, Erin. "Jim Justice opposes 'religious freedom' bill". Charleston Gazette-Mail. Retrieved November 20, 2018.
  51. ^ Tierney, Brendan; WV MetroNews; WSAZ News Staff; Associated Press (December 14, 2019). "Update: West Virginia governor says residency mandate nebulous". Retrieved February 26, 2020.
  52. ^ "About Jim". Retrieved August 4, 2017.
  53. ^ "James C. Justice II, West Virginia's Gentle Giant: Successful Meetings". Retrieved May 14, 2017.
  54. ^ Hess, Paul. "Gov. Justice will no longer coach high school boys basketball". Retrieved April 5, 2018.
  55. ^ "West Virginia gov-elect plans to keep coaching basketball". December 23, 2016. Retrieved May 14, 2017.
  56. ^ "Official 2016 Primary Election Results". West Virginia Secretary of State. Retrieved July 20, 2016.
  57. ^ "Statewide Results General Election November 8, 2016". West Virginia Secretary of State. State of West Virginia. Retrieved December 28, 2016.

External links

Party political offices
Preceded by
Earl Ray Tomblin
Democratic nominee for Governor of West Virginia
Most recent
Political offices
Preceded by
Earl Ray Tomblin
Governor of West Virginia
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Mike Pence
as Vice President
Order of Precedence of the United States
Within West Virginia
Succeeded by
Mayor of city in which event is held
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Otherwise Nancy Pelosi
as Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives
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Laura Kelly
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Outside West Virginia
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