Officials recall former Justice Maynard

PAKERSBURG – A former West Virginia Supreme Court justice who died on Thursday was remembered for his personality on Friday.

Elliott “Spike” Maynard was remembered by friends and colleagues for his quick wit, folksy anecdotes and biting writing style that could cut to the core of an argument.

Maynard died Thursday at Charleston Area Medical Center. He was 71.

Wood County Circuit Court Judge J.D. Beane said he met Maynard when the late justice ran for the high court the first time.

“He was traveling the state campaigning when I first met him. I got to know him better when he appointed me to the Judicial Ethics Committee, in my first year as circuit court judge. I just became really good friends with him. He came up to Parkersburg to a reception I had when I was appointed by then Gov. Joe Manchin to the circuit court from the Legislature,” Judge Beane said.

“I talked to him quite a bit when I was running for the supreme court. He was always a kind person, and he served the state for a lot of years, as prosecutor and circuit judge in Mingo County and then on the supreme court,” Beane said.

“He was somebody you could feel at ease with; he became a good friend through the years, he always had an interesting story to tell,” Beane said. “He always had the ability to make you feel at ease, even when you first met him, he was like someone you’d known your whole life.”

Maynard’s colleagues on the high court spoke highly of him.

“I’m devastated at the loss of one of the best friends I’ll ever have. His charm and wit, his grace and kindness, his wisdom and insight. Life just won’t be the same,” said Chief Justice Robin Jean Davis.

Justice Brent D. Benjamin said, “Justice Spike Maynard practiced law, served the people of Mingo County as both a prosecutor and circuit judge, and served West Virginia as both a justice and chief justice on our Supreme Court of Appeals. He loved the law. He loved West Virginia. And, with all his heart, he loved Mingo County. In many ways, Spike was larger than life. Yet the Spike I got to know was a quiet, considerate and compassionate man, a man with a warm smile and a deep concern about protecting children and helping those victimized by crime. It was a pleasure serving with Justice Maynard. My heart goes out to his loved ones.”

“I am very sad to learn of Justice Elliott Maynard’s death. I was in law school with him, and later had the pleasure of serving with him on the Supreme Court of Appeals. He was smart, funny, charming, and so easy to get along with. He loved to talk about art and opera and theater. When you sit next to someone every day, you learn a lot about them. Spike Maynard was a very kind person and he cared about people. As a Judge, he knew when to be tough and when to be compassionate. He was a true gentleman. My deepest sympathies to his family and many friends,” said Justice Margaret Workman.

Former Justice Thomas McHugh said, “He was a leader of the Court. He was able to bring his experience as a circuit judge to the Supreme Court. He had great experience. He espoused his positions very strongly on things he believed. I appreciate the fact that he appointed me when Justice Albright was ill.”

Maynard appointed McHugh to fill in for Justice Joseph P. Albright in September 2008 when Albright notified the court he could not serve because of illness. After Albright’s death in March 2009, McHugh served the remainder of his term through 2012.

West Virginia Republican Party Chairman Conrad Lucas said “I’m incredibly sad to learn of the passing of Justice Maynard. Spike was a true West Virginian, a brilliant legal mind and a champion of the conservative cause. From his time fighting crime as a prosecutor to his days steadying our Supreme Court, Spike held high the concept of justice and worked to pull this state up at every turn.”

Lucas said he got to know Maynard as an election opponent in 2010 and quickly came to know him as a fried.

“Spike embodied the role of a classic southern gentleman. Spike will go down in history as one of the most colorful and charming individuals ever to enter public life in the Mountain State,” he said.

Attorney General Patrick Morrisey issued the following statement on Maynard’s death: “I am saddened to hear of the passing of Spike Maynard. He was a devoted and talented lawyer and Supreme Court justice and his love for West Virginia and her people was evident.”

Maynard was elected to the Supreme Court in 1996 and lost a bid for re-election in the 2008 Democratic primary. He served as chief justice in 2000, 2004, and 2008.

When he was chief justice in 2000, he advocated for community corrections and alternative sanctions for certain criminal offenders, and his support was a key to the passage of community corrections laws in 2001. In his last year as chief justice he initiated a mock trial program for middle schools called West Virginia Law Adventure.

He was born in Williamson on Dec. 8, 1942, and graduated from Belfry High School in 1960. He earned his bachelor’s from Florida Southern College in 1967 and his law degree from West Virginia University in 1974.

He joined the United States Air Force in 1961 and was attached to a reconnaissance group during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Thereafter, he was assigned to the 306th Bomb Wing in the Strategic Air Command and was honorably discharged in 1966.

From 1968 to 1970 he was managing director of the Tug Valley Chamber of Commerce. He was engaged in the private practice of law in Williamson from 1974 to 1981.

In 1976, he was elected prosecuting attorney of Mingo County and was re-elected in 1980. In 1981 then-Gov. John D. Rockefeller IV appointed him judge of the 30th Judicial Circuit. He was subsequently elected and re-elected judge of that circuit until he was elected to the Supreme Court in 1996.

After he left the Supreme Court he served as a senior status justice and presided in several circuit court cases in which the sitting circuit judge was recused.

In 2010, he changed his voter registration to Republican and won the Republican nomination for the 3rd Congressional District seat. He lost in the general election to Democratic incumbent Nick Rahall.

Justice Maynard was involved for more than 30 years with the Boy Scouts of America and was District Chairman of the Mingo-Pike District and District Chairman of the Chief Cornstalk District. He served on the Board of the Buckskin Council and received the Silver Beaver Award, the highest volunteer award in scouting. He was a member of the American Judges Association, the American Bar Association, the American Judicature Society, the West Virginia Bar Association, the National District Attorneys Association, the Charleston Rotary Club, and other fraternal organizations.