|By George Hohmann, Charleston Daily Mail,
W.Va.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
May 13, 2009 - LEWISBURG, W.Va. -- Before last Friday, when news broke that he was buying The Greenbrier Resort, most West Virginians had never heard of Jim Justice.
People in the coal business know of Justice because he owned and operated coal companies in West Virginia and Kentucky. People in Beckley know Justice because of his philanthropy and community activities.
Otherwise, many West Virginians probably had the same reaction that football legend Sam Huff had when he heard last week that Justice bought The Greenbrier. "I've never heard of him," Huff said. "He must have a lot of money."
Indeed he must. On Friday a Russian steel company, Mechel, issued a press release saying that it had closed on the acquisition of Justice's West Virginia coal operations -- Bluestone Industries Inc. and related companies -- for $436 million.
The deal with the Russians did not include Justice's coal operations in Kentucky. It also didn't include Justice Family Farms. According to a biography released by Justice, his farms were the largest cash grain operation on the East Coast last year, producing corn, wheat and soybeans on more than 50,000 acres in West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina.
Bill Raney, president of the West Virginia Coal Association, has known Justice for many years. He called Justice "a great guy." He noted that Justice grew up in the area and that the Justice family went to The Greenbrier many times. "There's not a more enthusiastic supporter of The Greenbrier that you can find than Jim Justice," Raney said.
Justice lives in Lewisburg. "I think it's great to have a West Virginian step into this whole equation and hopefully keep the hotel at the high standards everybody envisions it needs to be," Raney said.
Last Friday, Gov. Joe Manchin described Justice as "a great humanitarian," saying Justice "has a heart greater than all outdoors. He wants to help everyone." Manchin and Justice had dinner Friday at The Greenbrier.
Justice, 58, attended Raleigh County Schools. He attended the University of Tennessee on a golf scholarship. Later, he transferred to Marshall University, where he was captain of the golf team his last two years. He received his bachelor's and master's degrees from Marshall.
He joined the family business in 1976 and the next year started Bluestone Farms, now operating as Justice Family Farms. In addition to growing corn, wheat and soybeans, the operation owns a John Deere farm equipment dealership, timber interests, grain storage facilities, cotton warehouses, a Christmas tree farm and two commercial turf farms, according to Justice's official biography.
He developed Stoney Brook Plantation, a 15,000-acre hunting and fishing preserve in Monroe County, and in 2000 he purchased the Saddlebred Golf Club and Community in Beckley, which has been renamed The Brier Patch Golf Links.
Following the death of Justice's father in 1993, Justice became president and chief executive officer of Bluestone Industries Inc. and Bluestone Coal Corp. In 2003, he established James C. Justice Companies Inc. to acquire additional mining operations. The business moved into Kentucky in 2007, Tennessee last year and, most recently, into Wise County, Va. It was Bluestone Industries and related companies' West Virginia mining interests that Justice recently sold to the Russian company.
Justice has been president of the Beckley Little League since 1992. His biography notes that he has coached basketball teams of all ages for the past 25 years.
His biography says that as director of the Mountain State Coal Classic Basketball Tournament, which was moved to Beckley in 1995, Justice helped raise more than $300,000 in scholarships and brought many sports legends to speak at the classic, including Hot Rod Hundley, Terry Bradshaw, Jerry West, Lou Holtz and Pat White.
Justice was the 1998 recipient of the Beckley-Raleigh County Chamber of Commerce's Community Service Award, the 1998 recipient of the "Spirit of Beckley" award from the Beckley-Raleigh County YMCA, and the 2000 recipient of the City of Hope Medical Center's "Spirit of Life" award. He serves on the National Board of Advisers of Duke University Children's Hospital.
He is a past chairman of West Virginia Mining and Reclamation Association and continues to serve on the West Virginia Coal Association's Board of Directors. His father was chairman in 1974-75.
Justice married Cathy Comer in 1976 in Beckley. They have two children, James (Jay) C. Justice III and Jill. Jay is a 2003 graduate of Virginia Tech and is executive vice president of James C. Justice Companies Inc. Jill is a graduate of Marshall and is enrolled in medical school at Virginia Tech.
Contact writer George Hohmann at email@example.com or 304-348-4836.
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Copyright (c) 2009, Charleston Daily Mail, W.Va.
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