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James Conley “Jim” Justice II, the 36th governor of West Virginia, has financial interests in coal, timber, agriculture, tourism and other industries, but is perhaps best known as the owner of the Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs. He was born April 27, 1951, in Charleston to James Conley Justice and Edna Ruth Perry Justice. He grew up in Raleigh County and attended the University of Tennessee, later transferring to Marshall University where he received his bachelor and master’s degrees.

After college, Justice became involved in the family business. In 1977, he started Bluestone Farms, an operation that grew to more than 50,000 acres in four states and is the largest grain producer on the East Coast. During that time, he also developed Stoney Brook Plantation, a 15,000-acre hunting and fishing preserve in Monroe County. After the death of his father in 1993, Justice became the president of Bluestone Industries and Bluestone Coal Corporation. Over the next 15 years, the Justice operations expanded to include numerous businesses, including Christmas tree farms, cotton gins, turf grass operations, and golf courses. In 2009, Justice sold the family’s coal operations in West Virginia to Mechel, a Russian company, and in 2015 bought the operations back for about a penny on the dollar. At the time, Justice was the president and CEO of about 50 companies.

Justice purchased the Greenbrier from CSX in May 2009, surprising many who anticipated another buyer for the resort, which was facing bankruptcy. He also purchased the Greenbrier Sporting Club, a private golf and residential community on the grounds of the resort.

Justice’s ownership brought substantial change to the Greenbrier. A casino–complete with a room for high rollers—opened with great fanfare in 2010. That year, the resort also launched the Greenbrier Classic, a golf tournament that is part of the PGA Tour. A professional sports training facility opened at the Greenbrier in 2014, hosting the New Orleans Saints football team’s training camp for the 2014, 2015 and 2016 seasons. Other major projects planned for the Greenbrier included a deluxe condominium complex and a $250 million medical facility. Justice removed himself from active management of the resort after his election as governor.

Since purchasing the Greenbrier, Justice has invested in other West Virginia properties, as well. He bought the Resort at Glade Springs in 2010 and the Black Knight Country Club in Beckley in 2011. In 2010, Justice’s company purchased 4,500 acres in Albemarle County, Virginia, from MeadWestvaco, and in 2011, the company bought the historic Flowerdew Hundred plantation on the James River. The plantation, which Justice’s company put back on the market in 2017, was the site of one of the earliest English settlements in America. In 2012, Justice purchased Wintergreen Resort near Charlottesville, Virginia.

With a net worth estimated at $1.2 billion in 2011, Justice made Forbes Magazine’s list of billionaires. In 2021, following business dealings that left Justice personally responsible for $850 million of debt, Forbes dropped Justice from its billionaire list.

One of Justice’s greatest passions is sports. He served as president of the Beckley Little League and has coached basketball at every level. Justice, who has lived in Lewisburg since 2001, has been the girls’ basketball coach at Greenbrier East High School since 2003 and won a state championship in 2012. In 2011, he also became the head coach for the boys’ basketball team, the only high school coach in the state at the AAA level to coach both the boys’ and girls’ teams. 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 stepped down as boys’ basketball coach in September 2017 but remains coach of the girls’ team while serving as governor.

He and his wife, Cathy, have a son and a daughter who have joined Justice in the family business. In 2015, Jim Justice became a candidate for the Democratic nomination for governor. In 2016, he won the Democratic primary and defeated Republican Bill Cole in the general election, receiving 49% of all votes cast.

He began his term as governor with a colorful inaugural speech in January 2017. In August of that year, he changed his party affiliation to Republican. His first major initiative as governor was the $2.8 billion Roads to Prosperity highway and bridge construction and maintenance program. In an October 2017 special election, state voters approved the sale of $1.6 billion in general obligation bonds to finance the improvements. Although turnout was low, about 10 percent of eligible voters, the measure passed in a landslide, receiving 73 percent of the vote. As of October 2022, the program had built or rehabilitated 26 bridges across the state as well as Interstate 70 in the Wheeling area. The last year of Justice’s first term was marked by the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In November 2020, he defeated Democrat Ben Salango to win reelection to a second term as governor. In April 2023, he announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Democrat Joe Manchin. In May 2024, Justice defeated his nearest competitor, Alex Mooney, by 34 percent in the Republican primary election for U.S. Senate.

This Article was written by Becky Calwell

Last Revised on May 15, 2024


Sources

Dave Morrison. Justice Named Boys Basketball Coach at Greenbrier East High School. Beckley Register-Herald, June 15, 2011.

Cite This Article

Calwell, Becky "Jim Justice." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 15 May 2024. Web. 18 May 2024.

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