|36th Governor of West Virginia|
|Assumed office |
January 16, 2017
|Preceded by||Earl Ray Tomblin|
James Conley Justice II
April 27, 1951
Charleston, West Virginia, U.S.
|Political party||Republican (before 2015, 2017–present)|
Cathy Comer (m. 1975)
|Residence||Lewisburg, West Virginia (personal)|
West Virginia Governor's Mansion (official)
|Education||University of Tennessee|
Marshall University (BA, MBA)
|Net worth||US$1.6 billion (2017)|
James Conley Justice II (born April 27, 1951) is an American coal mining and agriculture businessman and politician serving the 36th and current Governor of West Virginia since 2017. With a net worth of around $1.9 billion, he is the wealthiest person in West Virginia. He inherited a coal mining business from his father and successfully built a massive business empire with over 50 companies, including The Greenbrier, a luxury resort. Justice is one of the few billionaires from the State of West Virginia.
In 2015, Justice switched from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party and announced his candidacy for Governor in the 2016 election. 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 the day after announcing his plans at a President Trump rally in the state.
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. He earned his bachelor's degree and Master in Business Administration from Marshall.
After college, Justice went into the family agriculture business. 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.
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. Since buying back the mine from Mechel, Justice re-opened several of the mines and hired over 200 coal miners.
Justice owes 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."
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. When Justice first took control he immediately brought back all 650 laid-off employees. He added vacation and health benefits to their contracts and offered a 10 percent raise if the hotel regained its fifth star.
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.
Justice gives away more than $1 million in Christmas gifts annually through the Dream Tree for Kids campaign.
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.
In 2015, Justice declared his candidacy for Governor of West Virginia in the 2016 election as a member of the Democratic Party. He had been a registered member of the Republican Party until changing his registration in February 2015. This was his first time running for political office. In May 2016, Justice won the Democratic nomination for governor and ran against Republican nominee Bill Cole in the general election. On November 8, Justice won the election.
Justice was endorsed by the United Mine Workers.
Governor of West Virginia
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. He also opposed plans to cut health and education spending. 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.
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 help Trump as a Democrat. The announcement came as a surprise to his own staff. This also made Justice the first Republican governor of West Virginia since Cecil Underwood in 2001.
Governor Jim Justice began his gubernatorial campaign and career as a conservative Democrat. Time magazine identified him as a moderate Democrat. However, as noted above, he switched to the Republican Party a few months after taking office and declared his support for President Donald Trump.
Justice campaigned and has governed with support for the coal industry. He does not support raising taxes, but has supported increasing teachers' salaries arguing that increased state revenue will pay for the increased budget spending. In 2017, Justice said that he opposed budget cuts and supported raising sales taxes. The fiscally conservative CATO Institute, gave Justice an 'F' grade based on their positions, but Justice voiced his disagreement with the rating.
On abortion, Justice had said that he does not support abortion, but that the Supreme Court had decided the issue. Later, Justice attended an anti-abortion, or pro-life, rally supporting Amendment 1, a state constitutional amendment intended to ban abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned. He is considered pro-life and signed two anti-abortion bills into law. Justice supports gun ownership and loosened gun laws. In 2016, Justice had a 0% rating from the National Rife Association (NRA). In 2018, however, Justice signed into a law a bill allowing gun owners to keep their guns locked in vehicles on their employers' property, and this was a bill supported by the NRA. He also signed a bill legalizing hunting on Sundays on private land. On healthcare, Justice does not support repealing the Medicaid expansion that resulted from the Affordable Care Act. Regarding LGBT issues and same-sex marriage, Justice has taken a nuanced position. He did not say whether he supports or opposes same-sex marriage, and, instead, stated that he respects the Supreme Court decision, Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. In 2016, Justice opposed a bill that would have allowed businesses to refuse service to LGBT customers.
Opinion about global warming
According to the Charleston Gazette–Mail, Justice has equivocated on the scientific consensus on global warming. In an 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."
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. He hosts the Greenbrier Classic, a PGA Tour event, at The Greenbrier annually.
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. 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. 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."
He has been director of the Mountain State Coal Classic since 1995. The basketball classic has enjoyed tremendous success awarding hundreds of thousands in scholarships and direct support to participating schools.
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- "Justice to put 200 miners back to work". Times West Virginian. Retrieved January 12, 2016.
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- "Billionaire Gubernatorial Candidate Owes $15 Million In Taxes And Fines". Retrieved April 5, 2018.
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- "Justice lures golf legends to build mountaintop course near Greenbrier". Charleston Gazette-Mail. Retrieved January 12, 2016.
- Corbett, Jim (July 24, 2014). "Billionaire Jim Justice gives Saints lavish training camp". USA Today. Retrieved June 30, 2015.
- Berkes, Howard; Boiko-Weyrauch, Anna; Benincasa, Robert (November 15, 2014). "Billionaire Spent Millions In Charity, But Avoided Mine Fines". NPR. Retrieved June 30, 2015.
- "Dream Tree for Kids distributes $1 million worth of gifts". Beckley Register-Herald. Retrieved January 12, 2016.
- "Billionaire Gov. Jim Justice says he's pursuing blind trust; Commerce Secretary Thrasher files one". WV MetroNews. January 30, 2017. Retrieved August 4, 2017.
- "Some of Justice's companies put in blind trust". Charleston Gazette-Mail. Retrieved August 4, 2017.
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- "Jim Justice wins WV gubernatorial race". Retrieved November 12, 2016.
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- Jenkins, Jeff (March 6, 2017). "From 'knuckleheads' to 'blockheads' Justice still critical of legislature over budget". MetroNews. Retrieved April 14, 2017.
- McElhinny, Brad (February 24, 2017). "Governor Justice calls himself a grizzly and Senate majority leader a poodle". MetroNews. Retrieved April 14, 2017.
- Jenkins, Jeff (April 13, 2017). "Justice vetoes budget by unveiling bull manure". West Virginia MetroNews Network. Retrieved August 4, 2017.
- 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.
- 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.
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"GOP Gov. Jim Justice backs Democrat Joe Manchin for Senate". September 20, 2017. Retrieved April 5, 2018.
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- "WV MetroNews – New spending proposals and a tax cut on Governor Justice's plate this year". wvmetronews.com. Retrieved 2018-11-20.
- "WV MetroNews – Governor Justice highlights improving state revenue". wvmetronews.com. Retrieved 2018-11-20.
- writer, Phil Kabler Staff. "Justice dismisses 'F' on Cato Institute report card on fiscal policy". Charleston Gazette-Mail. Retrieved 2018-11-20.
- "Jim Justice on Abortion". www.ontheissues.org. Retrieved 2018-11-20.
- "West Virginians to vote on amendment to constitution concerning abortion". WV News. Retrieved 2018-11-20.
- writer, Lori Kersey Staff. "Anti-abortion proponents rally for Amendment 1". Charleston Gazette-Mail. Retrieved 2018-11-20.
- "WV MetroNews – Pro-life lawmakers look to restrict taxpayer-funded abortions". wvmetronews.com. Retrieved 2018-11-20.
- "The Voter's Self Defense System". Vote Smart. Retrieved 2018-11-20.
- MetroNews, The Associated Press, Bradford Arick, WSAZ News Staff,. "UPDATE: W.Va. Gov. Justice signs 'parked guns' legislation". Retrieved 2018-11-20.
- JOURNAL, Rusty Marks THE STATE. "Gov. Justice approves several gun-related bills". WV News. Retrieved 2018-11-20.
- "Jim Justice on Health Care". www.ontheissues.org. Retrieved 2018-11-20.
- Gutman, David. "Justice weighs in on same-sex marriage decision". Charleston Gazette-Mail. Retrieved 2018-11-20.
- Beck, Erin. "Jim Justice opposes 'religious freedom' bill". Charleston Gazette-Mail. Retrieved 2018-11-20.
- "About Jim". www.governor.wv.gov. Retrieved August 4, 2017.
- "James C. Justice II, West Virginia's Gentle Giant: Successful Meetings". www.successfulmeetings.com. Retrieved May 14, 2017.
- Hess, Paul. "Gov. Justice will no longer coach high school boys basketball". Retrieved April 5, 2018.
- "West Virginia gov-elect plans to keep coaching basketball". Retrieved May 14, 2017.
- "Official 2016 Primary Election Results". West Virginia Secretary of State. Retrieved July 20, 2016.
- "Statewide Results General Election November 8, 2016". West Virginia Secretary of State. State of West Virginia. Retrieved December 28, 2016.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Jim Justice.|
- Governor of West Virginia official government website
- Jim Justice at Curlie
- "Jim Justice" article in The West Virginia Encyclopedia
- Appearances on C-SPAN
|Party political offices|
Earl Ray Tomblin
| Democratic nominee for Governor of West Virginia
Earl Ray Tomblin
| Governor of West Virginia
|Current U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)|
as Vice President
| Order of Precedence of the United States
Within West Virginia
Mayor of city in which event is held
Otherwise Paul Ryan
as Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives
as Governor of Kansas
| Order of Precedence of the United States
Outside West Virginia
as Governor of Nevada