Mingo County and the world lost a true public servant with the passing of Jimmy “Big Jim” Hatfield, 84, of Gilbert last week.
Hatfield’s health had been deteriorating since he resigned as Mingo County Clerk in 2018.
Even at that time, Hatfield cited health issues as the reason for his retirement.
He had held the Clerk position since 2002.
Prior to that, Hatfield was a Mingo County Commissioner in the 1990s as well as a Deputy Sheriff in the sixties. He also worked as a coal miner for a time.
Several years ago, he was recognized by then-Governor Joe Manchin, as West Virginia Democrat of the year. “A great honor for a great man,” the funeral notice read.
“Big Jim” Hatfield, departed this life Saturday, October 14, from Cabell Huntington Hospital.
Born April 9, 1939 in Gilbert, he was the son of the late Sidney and Tilda (Hatfield) Hatfield.
In addition to his parents, he was also preceded in death by his son, Jeffrey Hatfield; a daughter, Glenetta Owens; sisters, Laura Hatfield and Louise Farris; and brothers, Frank, Johnny Lee and Bruce Emory Hatfield.
His obituary said ‘“Big Jim’ was a dedicated politician, who supported his party, his county, and his community. He had a big heart, always helping everyone he could.”
No truer words have ever been written. A born “people person,” he connected with everyone who walked through his office door or met him on the street.
Jim’s philosophy was simple: all he met deserved respect and friendship in Jim’s eyes and he was genuinely honored to help those needing his assistance, personally or as a public servant.
Nobody came into the Clerk’s office and left without being offered some treat, a soda or one of his famous bologna (positively pronounced “baloney”) sandwiches.
His refrigerator was stocked full of Coca Cola, other soft drinks and every condiment ever created to make his sandwiches the “Dagwood” version.
Most of the refrigerator held products from his favorite South Williamson Food City or Gilbert Foodland.
It was a glorious day indeed when Jim brought fresh tomatoes or other “fix’ns” from local gardens to add to the sandwiches.
While I loved the loaded bologna sandwiches, I often called him before 11 a.m. so we could have lunch at the great Food City cafeteria across the river.
Beans and cornbread, fried potatoes or cabbage and turnip greens made a genuine country meal fit for a king. Or for a Ron and Jim.
We both loved it. Former Food City Manager Donald Samson was always around and what a great store he ran before giving it up when he was elected as a Mingo Magistrate. We often swapped tall tales as “Big Jim” and I devoured the food.
More importantly, we caught up on the latest political gossip and chatted with all the great friends, old and new, who stopped to say hello.
Salt of the earth. That’s what Mingo Countians are and “Big Jim” qualified for the title as well.
If ever there was a genuinely kind, considerate, humble man, it was “Big Jim” Hatfield.
Those left to love and cherish his memory include his loving companion of 46 years, Greta Owens of Gilbert; daughter, Robin Owens (Jason Dickerson) of Lorado; son, David (Dana) Owens of Baisden; and grandsons, Daniel Owens of Winfield and Jerome (Chelsea) Owens of Ripley.
Jim loved his family and simply adored his children, grandchildren, great-grandchild and too many nieces and nephews to count.
He leaves many other family members and friends who watched him suffer physically in later years. A giant of a man, he had a huge heart of gold.
Friends gathered at 1 p.m., Thursday, October 19 in the Chapel at Mounts Funeral Home in Gilbert, where funeral services commenced at 2 p.m. Rev. Louie Vanover officiated. Burial followed in the Carter Cemetery in the Browning Fork section of Gilbert.
He was carried to his resting place by his family and friends.
Enough good things cannot be said to properly honor this man of the people.
Farewell, “Big Jim.” The beans and cornbread will never be the same.
Politics seems trivial when we lose a man like “Big Jim.” I have seldom smiled since I heard the news.
As we told you would happen several months ago, former Republican President Donald Trump has endorsed GOP Governor Jim Justice in his 2024 campaign for the United States Senate seat now held by Democrat Joe Manchin.
Trump posted a message on Truth Social last Wednesday about the endorsement.
“Big Jim Justice, the Governor of the Great State of West Virginia (I LOVE WEST VIRGINIA!) is BIG in every way, but especially in his wonderful HEART! Strong on the Border, our Great Military & Vets, CLEAN COAL & Energy Dominance, the Economy, Stopping Inflation & Protecting our 2nd Amendment, Big Jim will be a Great UNITED STATES SENATOR, and has my Complete and Total Endorsement. HE WILL NEVER LET YOU DOWN!!!” Trump wrote (and yes, all the caps and exclamation points are his not mine).
When we first discussed this endorsement, sources told us Florida Governor Ron DeSantis would endorse Justice’s primary opponent, Congressman Alex Mooney.
That was in the days when most political professionals thought DeSantis would give Trump a close race for the 2024 GOP Presidential nomination.
Now that the Florida Governor has fizzled into the “Wannabees Who Never Were Club,” it’s unlikely Mooney would go out of his way to earn DeSantis’ approval.
So one shoe has dropped just as we predicted. The other may never turn up considering the current reality.
DeSantis is clearly not in the same league as Trump. His support would be virtually meaningless.
I have spent a good deal of time and effort dissecting the strife that becoming the state’s dominant party has created for West Virginia Republicans.
Gone are the days when GOP conventions could be held in the corner phone booth (corner phone booth? What the h— is that?). No longer are GOP primaries held without competition; now it’s a prize to win the County Agriculture District Supervisor contest.
Inevitably, as we’ve guessed earlier, this has led to friction between various people and groups within the party.
I have generally tried to simplify this process by referring to “moderate” Republicans and “ultra, far-right, fringe” Republicans.
However, it’s much more complicated than that.
For one thing, we have had such a switch by voters to Republican from Democrat, that folks never used to having any real power now have some.
This is uncharted territory.
Some longtime Republicans dislike the Democrats-turned-Republican. They label these voters as opportunists waiting to thrive on the strength of a Republican majority.
That’s more or less what State Republican Chair Elgine McArdle claimed new Republican Doug Skaff is doing.
Actually, Skaff came out positively in my book and did it correctly.
The former Democrat House of Delegates member pointed out that the national Democrat party left him; he didn’t leave it.
Simultaneously, Skaff announced he’s running for Secretary of State.
In the past, McArdle and state GOP leadership have been ecstatic when an elected official switched to the GOP.
Not so with Skaff, however.
In a prepared statement, McArdle criticized Skaff for his past legislative votes. If she was happy yet another prominent Democrat had joined the state GOP, you couldn’t prove it by me.
I suspect, if we were to dig deeply into all this, we’d find that the State Chair, who should be impartial when it comes to the Republican primary, is actually supporting another potential GOP candidate for SOS in the primary.
In my view and that of many other Republicans, that’s improper. McArdle should learn to be neutral in primary races.
Still, it all comes back to a different focus of the 2024 election that has not been true in the recent past.
Candidates and their supporters are trying – and in some cases succeeding – in organizing “slates” of candidates.
Slates were wrong in the old days of West Virginia and, though different, they’re still wrong today.
I’ve explained before that 1950s slates were clearly illegal operations. In most cases, candidates had to buy their way onto those slates.
Money was also the name of the game in “buying votes” given directly to voters by precinct captains to support their slates.
Today, particularly in the GOP, slates appear to be based on agreements between candidates for various offices seeing an advantage in uniting with candidates for other offices.
So if Candidate A running for Governor is from the Eastern Panhandle and Candidate B from Charleston is on the ballot for Attorney General, they may decide to run as a “ticket.” Both will potentially benefit geographically, according to this theory.
While the modern-day slates are not necessarily illegal, I believe party leadership should avoid them.
If one accepts the textbook explanation that county, state, and national committees exist to promote party strength and unity, it is clear slates do not further that goal.
In fact, endorsements of any kind in primary elections run counter to promoting the overall success of that party.
What candidate is going to feel good about his or her party and its leadership if those leaders support his or her opponent in the primary? The answer is that none of the red-headed stepchild candidates will be faithful party boosters after being opposed by leadership.
Still, despite the fact that leaders picking their favorite primary candidates is non-productive or even detrimental, they always lean toward doing it. This is particularly true of Republicans.
So why would leadership want something that’s not good for their party?
It goes back to the age-old quest for power, in my opinion.
Party leaders, by and large, don’t want to take a chance on their party members making the right decisions, so the officers try to dictate the results.
State Republicans, especially, resist public input into their decision-making process.
Republicans have even tried eliminating rank-and-file party members from being involved at election time.
Few oldsters can forget when the state GOP opted to hold a convention in Charleston over statewide balloting to choose their Presidential candidate.
With leadership greasing not only the location but also the agenda in favor of now-U.S. Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, enough attendees revolted to nominate Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.
The dictatorial rule of ex-Republican State Chair Melody Potter furthered the concentration of power in the chosen few.
So currently, even county committees are trying to usurp the people’s power by endorsing primary candidates.
Chief among those organizing such efforts are Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and his wife, Denise.
It’s safe to say the Morriseys would like for him to lead the “slate.”
Their efforts thus far seem to have resulted in near-destruction of the West Virginia Federation of Republican Women. The two sides in that dispute appear headed to court, according to a Friday story here.
The Morrisey couple’s allies have ostracized lifetime Republicans across the state who are supporting other candidates for Governor in 2024.
I firmly believe that if state GOP leadership maintains its current path, the Republicans will not long be the state’s majority party.
Of course, having two distinct sides in the state Federation of Republican Women dispute created by Denise Morrisey should surprise nobody.
Many Greenbrier County Republicans have reported horror stories about Mrs. Morrisey creating a lack of harmony in that county’s GOP Executive Committee.
Denise Morrisey, you will recall, lives in Greenbrier.
Add to the mix the negative campaign style of Congressman Mooney running against Governor Justice for U.S. Senate.
Then toss in that Mooney’s Campaign Manager is John Findlay, who many credit with single-handedly destroying the Virginia Republican party and you have the ingredients for a disaster coming sooner rather than later.
It may take some time before there are Governor-appointed Circuit Judges for the current Cabell and Kanawha County vacancies.
One interested lawyer said word from officials is that the Judicial Vacancy Advisory Commission will not be doing interviews for the posts before December.
In Cabell, former Prosecutor Chris Chiles is retiring from his judge position, effective October 31. The late Judge Joanna Tabit’s seat is vacant in Kanawha.
Temporary replacements fill in at the direction of Supreme Court Chief Justice Beth Walker until the Governor completes the process.
The WVJVAC must first interview applicants and then recommend potential replacements to the Governor.
Thus, this may take a bit of time.
I mentioned earlier that Charleston attorney Ashley Deem is a likely choice to replace Tabit.
Deem’s social media postings featured her speaking recently at a Center-Right Coalition meeting.
That group is a solidly conservative, Republican-oriented organization.
At last report, Calhoun County’s remaining two County Commissioners had still not agreed on a replacement for the third member, who resigned.
The Calhoun Republican Executive Committee fulfilled their role in the process by suggesting three possible replacements when the two sitting Commissioners could not agree on a new member.
Those recommended by the Committee are:
Roger Propst, Eric Lupardus and Dennis Spaur.
We’ll keep an eye on that situation.
In solidifying the belief that social media reports events inaccurately, the drama in Washington over picking a new House Speaker last week was rampant with deception.
I have explained here that there is no doubt Congressman Mooney adheres very closely to the ultra-conservative wing of the party.
Mooney’s fellow Representative, Republican Carol Miller, is clearly moderate.
Those facts should not form a basis to lie about Congresswoman Miller, though.
When far-right Republicans got wound up on the race to be Speaker last week, tiny, little, white fibs became gigantic dark lies.
Conservative West Virginians suddenly cared who would be the new Speaker at the exact moment former President Donald Trump endorsed Jim Jordan of Ohio for the job.
Folks who could barely remember that Mooney and Miller are West Virginia’s two Representatives quickly knew all the reasons Jordan is the Greatest Congressman of All Time (GCAT).
Those who are in lockstep with Trump lambasted Louisiana Congressman Steve Scalise, who was the first GOP caucus nominee for Speaker.
As rock solid a conservative as any, Scalise became the target of right-wing venom. He bowed out after losing on one ballot.
That withdrawal led Jordan to the race followed by Trump’s endorsement.
Out of nowhere, negative comments about Miller originated and grew on radical conservative sites and posts.
At first, those now-Jordan worshippers bemoaned the “fact” that Miller would likely oppose Jordan.
Although there was no factual basis for that, the concern grew to criticism and then outright hostility toward the “liberal” Miller.
As a vote on Jordan loomed, the neo-conservative posters begged associates to call Miller’s office and demand that she vote for Jordan.
Eventually, after Jordan failed to be elected Speaker during two rounds of balloting, the language grew tougher.
One poster declared as the second balloting was underway, that he had called Miller’s D.C. office. He graphically explained that the Miller employee who answered told him the Congresswoman would never vote for Jordan for Speaker.
The biggest problem with that story is that, by the time the post appeared, Miller had already voted for Jordan twice.
Those labeling Miller as “anti-Jordan” may also have forgotten that Jordan was an honored guest at a Miller fundraiser in Huntington some years ago.
When I spoke with a Miller spokesperson later, she advised me that all callers were being told the Congresswoman would vote “with the majority.”
How that comment evolved to mean she would never vote for Jordan is a mystery since the Ohio Congressman was the clear choice of the Republican caucus majority.
Miller has positioned herself well in terms of leadership. Her decision to vote with the GOP majority does not make her a “Never Trumpster.”
All of this suggests that nobody should rely on social media for reliable information. Those on those sites can misrepresent things just as well as Mainstream Media.
The rightwingers naturally led to suggesting the “anti-Trump” Miller needs to be beaten in the primary.
On another site, one astute far-righter even begged for someone to step forward and run against Miller in the 2024 election.
That’s when former political prisoner Derrick Evans interjected that he was already challenging Miller.
Evans, one of the weaponized federal Department of (In)Justice targets in the January 6, 2021 Capitol rally, has actually pulled within ten points of Miller in our most recent poll.
For a man most local pundits think is soon retiring, Democrat U.S. Senator Joe Manchin sure still acts like a candidate.
Whatever he eventually does, the former Governor is determined to remind voters that his Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is helping West Virginians.
The most recent example is his announcement that American Electric Power Service Corporation (AEP) will be receiving $2.5 million.
Manchin, who is Chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said the funding will come from the Department of Energy’s Grid Resilience and Innovation Partnerships Program. The grant is designed “to support technology solutions that increase the flexibility, efficiency, reliability and resiliency of the electric power system for customers in the Charleston and Huntington regions,” he said.
Then here’s the kicker, “the program was made possible by Chairman Manchin’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.”
Many people, including West Virginia Republicans like Justice, have been critical of Manchin for supporting and naming this law.
Doesn’t sound like a politician on the verge of retirement, does it?
Contact Ron Gregory at 304-533-5185 or firstname.lastname@example.org.