CHARLESTON (AP) — Former West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Elliott “Spike” Maynard, who lost a re-election bid a few months after photos surfaced of him vacationing with former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship, has died.
Maynard, 71, died Thursday at Charleston Area Medical Center, according to a statement by the court, which did not list a cause of death. Maynard had been at the hospital for the past month.
The Mingo County native was elected to a 12-year term on the court as a Democrat in 1996. He served in the rotating role of chief justice in 2000, 2004, and 2008.
Current Supreme Court justices remembered Maynard for his wit, kindness, wisdom and love for art, opera and theater.
“When you sit next to someone every day, you learn a lot about them,” Justice Margaret Workman said. “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.”
West Virginia Republican Party Chairman Conrad Lucas called Maynard “a true West Virginian, a brilliant legal mind and a champion of the conservative cause. As a proud son of Mingo County, 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.”
Maynard drew criticism when photos became public of him vacationing on the French Riviera in 2006 with Blankenship before voting with the majority in a 3-2 decision reversing a $76 million judgment against Massey.
At the time, Maynard said their friendship “has never influenced any decision I’ve made for the Court. Like most judges I don’t reward my friends, or punish my enemies from the bench.”
Maynard recused himself when the court reheard the case. He lost in the Democratic primary in 2008.
Maynard later switched to the Republican party and lost his bid in 2010 to unseat Democratic Rep. Nick Rahall in the state’s 3rd Congressional District.
Maynard was born in Williamson and earned his bachelor’s degree from Florida Southern College and his law degree from West Virginia University.
He served in the Air Force in the 1960s, went into private practice and served as prosecutor and circuit judge in Mingo County before being elected to the Supreme Court.
After leaving the high court, he served as a senior status justice and presided in several circuit court cases where the sitting judge was recused.
Weaver Mortuary in Williamson is handling funeral arrangements, which were incomplete Friday morning.