Justice Elliott “Spike” Maynard died Thursday, May 1, at Charleston Area Medical Center. He was 71.
Justice Maynard was known for his piercing gaze, quick wit, folksy anecdotes and biting writing style that could cut to the core of an argument – and for his deep love of his native Mingo County and the lifelong friends he made there.
Supreme Court Chief Justice Robin Jean Davis said, “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.”
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.”
Justice Margaret Workman said, “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.”
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.” Justice Maynard appointed Justice McHugh to fill in for Justice Joseph P. Albright in September 2008 when Justice Albright notified the Court he could not serve because of illness. After Justice Albright’s death in March 2009, Justice McHugh filled out the remainder of his term through 2012.
Supreme Court Administrator Steve Canterbury added, “We’ll all miss the sweetness of his voice.”
In a 2007 interview with the Williamson Daily News, Justice Maynard said, “Whatever success I have been lucky to have in my life came in large part because of the people in Mingo County and the things I learned from them growing up. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I grew up in an amazing place. I often think how lucky I have been in my life, and I have been. One of the luckiest things was growing up in Mingo County in the ‘50s and ‘60s. I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything on the planet.
“I’d rather be in Mingo County, West Virginia, than any place on the planet. That’s principally because of family and friends,” Justice Maynard told the newspaper. “When I leave this world I will be buried there.”
He 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 degree 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 he 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-Governor John D. Rockefeller, IV, appointed him Judge of the Thirtieth 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 Third 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.
“This Court is important to the people of West Virginia,” Justice Maynard said in the 2007 interview with the Williamson Daily News. “The decisions of the Court really affect their lives far more than what I did as a prosecutor or circuit court judge.”
He added, however, being prosecutor was “the most fun I ever had in the law. You get to right wrongs. You get to prosecute bad guys who have hurt people or killed people. It was a very satisfying job. I enjoyed trying cases as a lawyer in front of a jury.”
He told the newspaper he also enjoyed his years as a circuit judge. “Trying a case before a jury is a high drama situation. It’s very exciting,” Maynard said.
Although he made many friends in the years after he left Mingo County, he told the Williamson newspaper that “My truest, and best, and closest friends are all in Mingo County. Real friends are the people you grew up with and know all your life. The real treasures of my life are the people in the Tug Valley area.”