Jim Justice
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Jim Justice

Jim Justice
Jim Justice 2017 InaugurationHighlights PB-63 (32366955776) (cropped).jpg
36th Governor of West Virginia

January 16, 2017
Earl Ray Tomblin
Personal details
James Conley Justice II

(1951-04-27) April 27, 1951 (age 69)
Charleston, West Virginia, U.S.
Political partyRepublican (before 2015, 2017-present)
Democratic (2015-2017)
Height6 ft 7 in (201 cm)
Cathy Comer
(m. 1975)
ResidenceGovernor's Mansion (official)*
EducationMarshall 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 businessman and politician who has been 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 94 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. In the 2020 gubernatorial race, he won re-election in a landslide over Democratic challenger Ben Salango.

Early life and education

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 of 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]

According to a ProPublica investigation, Justice paid more than $128 million in judgments and settlements over unpaid bills by his businesses.[14][15]

Forbes estimates Justice's net worth at $1.6 billion.[16] 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 mountaintop golf course with golfers Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, and Lee Trevino. Arnold Palmer was involved before his 2016 death.[17]

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.[18] Justice gives away more than $1 million in Christmas gifts annually through the Dream Tree for Kids campaign.[19]

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.[20][21] During the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, Justice and his family's businesses received at least between $11 million and $24 million in aid through the Paycheck Protection Program.[15] His luxury resort, the Greenbrier Hotel Corporation, received a loan of between $5 million and $10 million, but the company did not promise to retain any jobs in exchange for the aid.[15]

As Governor of West Virginia, he is in charge of the state agencies that regulate many of his businesses.[15]

Political career

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

2016 gubernatorial election

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.[22] This was his first time running for political office.[23] In May 2016, Justice won the Democratic nomination for governor and ran against Republican nominee Bill Cole in the general election.[24] On November 8, Justice won the election.[25][26]

Justice was endorsed by the United Mine Workers.[27]

2020 gubernatorial election

In January 2019, Justice declared his re-election campaign to try to win another term.[28] For his second bid, he ran as a Republican since he previously changed his party registration following a 2017 rally featuring President Trump. During the primaries, he defeated multiple challengers within his party.[29]

Throughout the general election campaign season, he focused on his COVID-19 response, the state's budget surplus, and his work on the substance abuse crisis.[30] Several polls had him winning by a large margin against Kanawha County Commissioner Ben Salango in the months leading up to Election Day.[31] On November 3, 2020, he defeated Salango in the race for the governorship.[30] With his win, he became the first West Virginian Republican gubernatorial candidate to win since Cecil Underwood in 1996 and the first GOP incumbent to win a second term since Arch A. Moore Jr. in 1976.

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.[32][33]

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.[34] He also opposed plans to cut health and education spending.[35] 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.[36]

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.[37] 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.[38] However, later in the general election, Justice endorsed Republican Senate candidate, Patrick Morrisey.[39]


Political positions

Justice began his gubernatorial campaign and political career as a conservative Democrat.[40][41]Time identified him as a moderate Democrat.[42] However, as noted above, he switched to the Republican Party a few months after taking office and declared his support for President Donald Trump.[43]

Economic policy

Justice campaigned and has governed with support for the coal industry.[44] He does not support raising taxes but has supported increasing teachers' salaries, arguing that increased state revenue will pay for the increased budget spending.[45] In 2017, Justice said that he opposed budget cuts and supported raising sales taxes.[46] The libertarian Cato Institute gave Justice an "F" grade based on their positions, but Justice voiced his disagreement with the rating.[47]


Justice had said that he does not support abortion, but that the Supreme Court had decided the issue.[48] Later, Justice attended a rally supporting Amendment 1, a state constitutional amendment intended to ban abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned.[49][50] He is considered pro-life and signed two anti-abortion bills into law.[51]

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.[52] He also signed a bill legalizing hunting on Sundays on private land.[53]


Justice supports West Virginia's Medicaid expansion, which was implemented by the previous governor under provisions of the Affordable Care Act.[54]

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.[55] In 2017, Justice opposed a bill that would have allowed businesses to refuse service to LGBTQ customers.[56]

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]

Personal life

Justice met his wife, Cathy (née Comer) in high school.[57] They have two children, Jay and Jill.[5] He stands at 6 feet 7 inches (2.01 m).[58] 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][16] Until 2019, he hosted the Greenbrier Classic, a PGA Tour event, at the Greenbrier annually.[7]

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.[59]

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.[60] 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.[61] 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." In February 2020, Justice apologize for calling the Woodrow Wilson High School girls' basketball players "a bunch of thugs" after a heated basketball game between Greenbrier East and Woodrow Wilson.[62]

Electoral history

2016 West Virginia gubernatorial election, Democratic primary[63]
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[64]
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
2020 West Virginia gubernatorial election, Republican primary
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Jim Justice (incumbent) 127,445 63.0%
Republican Woody Thrasher 37,019 18.3%
Republican Michael Folk 24,896 12.3%
Republican Doug Six 4,231 2.1%
Republican Brooke Lunsford 3,675 1.8%
Republican Shelly Jean Fitzhugh 2,560 1.3%
Republican Chuck Sheedy 2,415 1.2%
Total votes 202,241 100.0%
2020 West Virginia gubernatorial election[65][66]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Republican Jim Justice (incumbent) 497,944 64.77%
Democratic Ben Salango 237,024 30.83%
Libertarian Erika Kolenich 22,527 2.93%
Mountain Daniel Lutz 11,309 1.47%
Total votes 768,804 100.00%
Republican hold

See also


  1. ^ "Jim Justice, II". Retrieved 2018.
  2. ^ "Jim Justice, II". Forbes. Retrieved 2018.
  3. ^ "A West Virginia dancer performs during the first half at the WVU Coliseum". WV MetroNews. January 14, 2015. Retrieved 2017.
  4. ^ Houvouras, Jack (Winter 2010). "HQ&A with Jim Justice". Huntington Quarterly. Huntington, WV: HQ Publishing. Retrieved 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 2015.
  6. ^ a b Gutman, David. "Justice stresses big ideas over specifics in campaign". Charleston Gazette-Mail. Retrieved 2016.
  7. ^ a b c d e Eyre, Eric (May 11, 2015). "Greenbrier owner Jim Justice enters governor's race". The Charleston Gazette. Retrieved 2015.
  8. ^ Barrett, Paul (January 10, 2017). "Can West Virginia's New Governor Save Coal Country?". Bloomberg.com. Retrieved 2017.
  9. ^ "Justice to put 200 miners back to work". Times West Virginian. Retrieved 2016.
  10. ^ Berkes, Howard. "Billionaire Gubernatorial Candidate Owes $15 Million In Taxes And Fines". NPR.org. Retrieved 2017.
  11. ^ "Billionaire Gubernatorial Candidate Owes $15 Million In Taxes And Fines". Retrieved 2018.
  12. ^ "Justice settles millions in out-of-state debt claims". WV MetroNews. July 19, 2019. Retrieved 2020.
  13. ^ Companies Tied To W.Va. Governor To Pay $5 Million In Mining Violations
  14. ^ Jim, Big. "The Billionaire Governor Who's Been Sued Dozens of Times for Millions in Unpaid Bills". ProPublica. Retrieved 2020.
  15. ^ a b c d Jim, Big. "Companies Owned by This Billionaire Governor Received up to $24 Million in Bailout Loans". ProPublica. Retrieved 2020.
  16. ^ a b Corbett, Jim (July 24, 2014). "Billionaire Jim Justice gives Saints lavish training camp". USA Today. Retrieved 2015.
  17. ^ "Justice lures golf legends to build mountaintop course near Greenbrier". Charleston Gazette-Mail. Retrieved 2016.
  18. ^ Berkes, Howard; Boiko-Weyrauch, Anna; Benincasa, Robert (November 15, 2014). "Billionaire Spent Millions In Charity, But Avoided Mine Fines". NPR. Retrieved 2015.
  19. ^ "Dream Tree for Kids distributes $1 million worth of gifts". Beckley Register-Herald. Retrieved 2016.
  20. ^ "Billionaire Gov. Jim Justice says he's pursuing blind trust; Commerce Secretary Thrasher files one". WV MetroNews. January 30, 2017. Retrieved 2017.
  21. ^ "Some of Justice's companies put in blind trust". Charleston Gazette-Mail. Retrieved 2017.
  22. ^ Maher, Kris (May 12, 2015). "Jim Justice, West Virginia Billionaire, Launches Campaign for Governor". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2015.
  23. ^ Jenkins, Jeff (May 11, 2015). "WV MetroNews - Jim Justice enters politics, announces 2016 run for governor". Wvmetronews.com. Retrieved 2015.
  24. ^ Raby, John (May 10, 2015). "Jim Justice wins Democratic nomination for West Virginia gov". The Herald-Dispatch. Retrieved 2016.[permanent dead link]
  25. ^ "Jim Justice wins WV gubernatorial race". Retrieved 2016.
  26. ^ "West Virginia Governor Results: Jim Justice Wins". The New York Times. August 1, 2017. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020.
  27. ^ "UMWA endorses Jim Justice for governor". WV MetroNews. November 12, 2015. Retrieved 2016.
  28. ^ writer, Jake Zuckerman Staff. "Gov. Jim Justice announces re-election bid". Charleston Gazette-Mail. Retrieved 2020.
  29. ^ Nam, Rafael (June 9, 2020). "West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice wins GOP gubernatorial primary". TheHill. Retrieved 2020.
  30. ^ a b "Justice Wins Re-Election". theintelligencer.net. Retrieved 2020.
  31. ^ "RealClearPolitics - Election 2020 - West Virginia Governor - Justice vs. Salango". www.realclearpolitics.com. Retrieved 2020.
  32. ^ Jenkins, Jeff (March 6, 2017). "From 'knuckleheads' to 'blockheads' Justice still critical of legislature over budget". MetroNews. Retrieved 2017.
  33. ^ McElhinny, Brad (February 24, 2017). "Governor Justice calls himself a grizzly and Senate majority leader a poodle". MetroNews. Retrieved 2017.
  34. ^ Jenkins, Jeff (April 13, 2017). "Justice vetoes budget by unveiling bull manure". West Virginia MetroNews Network. Retrieved 2017.
  35. ^ 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 2017.
  36. ^ 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 2017.
  37. ^ Kabler, Phil (August 3, 2017). "WV Gov. Justice switching political parties, returning to GOP". Charleston Gazette. Retrieved 2017.
  38. ^ "WV MetroNews - Governor Justice, now Republican, tells Republicans he supports Manchin's Senate bid". wvmetronews.com. September 20, 2017. Retrieved 2018.
    "GOP Gov. Jim Justice backs Democrat Joe Manchin for Senate". September 20, 2017. Retrieved 2018.
  39. ^ "Manchin and Justice exchange fire - again - over W.Va. road conditions". WV MetroNews. March 14, 2019. Retrieved 2019.
  40. ^ Brown, Andrew. "Jim Justice wins WV gubernatorial race". Charleston Gazette-Mail. Retrieved 2018.
  41. ^ "Is West Virginia Holding America's Weirdest Election?". POLITICO Magazine. Retrieved 2018.
  42. ^ "West Virginia Governor Switches Parties at Trump Rally". Time. Retrieved 2018.
  43. ^ Jedeur-Palmgren, Max. "Billionaire and WV Governor Jim Justice Switches To Republican at Trump Event". Forbes. Retrieved 2018.
  44. ^ "Trump: Praise for Justice and coal". POLITICO. Retrieved 2018.
  45. ^ "WV MetroNews - New spending proposals and a tax cut on Governor Justice's plate this year". wvmetronews.com. January 11, 2018. Retrieved 2018.
  46. ^ "WV MetroNews - Governor Justice highlights improving state revenue". wvmetronews.com. May 4, 2018. Retrieved 2018.
  47. ^ writer, Phil Kabler Staff. "Justice dismisses 'F' on Cato Institute report card on fiscal policy". Charleston Gazette-Mail. Retrieved 2018.
  48. ^ "Jim Justice on Abortion". www.ontheissues.org. Retrieved 2018.
  49. ^ "West Virginians to vote on amendment to constitution concerning abortion". WV News. Retrieved 2018.
  50. ^ writer, Lori Kersey Staff. "Anti-abortion proponents rally for Amendment 1". Charleston Gazette-Mail. Retrieved 2018.
  51. ^ "WV MetroNews - Pro-life lawmakers look to restrict taxpayer-funded abortions". wvmetronews.com. January 12, 2018. Retrieved 2018.
  52. ^ MetroNews, The Associated Press, Bradford Arick, WSAZ News Staff. "UPDATE: W.Va. Gov. Justice signs 'parked guns' legislation". Retrieved 2018.
  53. ^ JOURNAL, Rusty Marks THE STATE. "Gov. Justice approves several gun-related bills". WV News. Retrieved 2018.
  54. ^ "Jim Justice on Health Care". www.ontheissues.org. Retrieved 2018.
  55. ^ Gutman, David. "Justice weighs in on same-sex marriage decision". Charleston Gazette-Mail. Retrieved 2018.
  56. ^ Beck, Erin. "Jim Justice opposes 'religious freedom' bill". Charleston Gazette-Mail. Retrieved 2018.
  57. ^ "About Jim". www.governor.wv.gov. Retrieved 2017.
  58. ^ "James C. Justice II, West Virginia's Gentle Giant: Successful Meetings". www.successfulmeetings.com. Retrieved 2017.
  59. ^ Tierney, Brendan; WV MetroNews; WSAZ News Staff; Associated Press (December 14, 2019). "Update: West Virginia governor says residency mandate nebulous". Retrieved 2020.
  60. ^ Hess, Paul. "Gov. Justice will no longer coach high school boys basketball". Retrieved 2018.
  61. ^ "West Virginia gov-elect plans to keep coaching basketball". December 23, 2016. Retrieved 2017.
  62. ^ Bogage, Jacob. "W.Va. governor says he 'never dreamed' calling girls' basketball team 'thugs' would cause offense". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2020.
  63. ^ "Official 2016 Primary Election Results". West Virginia Secretary of State. Retrieved 2016.
  64. ^ "Statewide Results General Election November 8, 2016". West Virginia Secretary of State. State of West Virginia. Retrieved 2016.
  65. ^ "November 3, 2020 General Election - Official Results". West Virginia State - Clarity Elections. Retrieved 2020.
  66. ^ "Election Night Reporting". results.enr.clarityelections.com. Retrieved 2020..

External links

Party political offices
Preceded by
Earl Ray Tomblin
Democratic nominee for Governor of West Virginia
Succeeded by
Ben Salango
Preceded by
Bill Cole
Republican 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
Kamala Harris
as Vice President
Order of Precedence of the United States
Within West Virginia
Succeeded by
Mayor of city in which event is held
Succeeded by
Otherwise Nancy Pelosi
Preceded by
Laura Kelly
as Governor of Kansas
Order of Precedence of the United States
Outside West Virginia
Succeeded by
Steve Sisolak
as Governor of Nevada

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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