Former state Supreme Court chief justice and Republican congressional candidate Elliot “Spike” Maynard has died, multiple sources told the Daily Mail.
Maynard, who had been in the surgical intensive care unit at Charleston Area Medical Center’s Memorial Hospital for several weeks, died Thursday at age 71.
“Spike was a very interesting and colorful person who had a good sense of humor as well as a sense of justice,” said Berkeley Circuit Court Judge John Yoder late Thursday.
Maynard’s girlfriend, Karen Cross, told Metro News host Hoppy Kercheval Thursday he was “on the path to recovery.” She didn’t give information about any specific ailment or illness.
CAMC Memorial is known for its heart programs, according to the hospital’s website. It’s also home to a cancer center, a diabetes center and other medical services.
A statement issued Friday from the state Supreme Court did not list a cause of death. Since April there have been at least two Facebook groups with posts saying Maynard health was declining and asking for prayers.
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 in 1996 as a Democrat. He remained on the high court for the entire 12-year term, serving as chief justice for a time.
Yoder, who was elected as a circuit judge in 2008, said he got to know Maynard while running for the state Supreme Court in 1996.
“I think he’s going to be remembered as a very astute politician who was a hard campaigner who was able to get out there and get votes,” Yoder said.
Maynard faced criticism for a 2008 verdict while serving on the court.
He voted in favor of a decision that benefited coal tycoon Don Blankenship after pictures surfaced of the pair vacationing together in the French Riviera in 2006. The 3-2 vote vindicated Massey Energy, where Blankenship was an executive at the time, from a more than $50 million verdict.
Maynard decided to not partake when the court eventually reconsidered the case. He lost his bid for re-election later that year.
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.
He later officially switched his political affiliation to Republican to challenge Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., for his seat in Congress in 2010.
State GOP Chairman Conrad Lucas said in a statement he was incredibly sad to learn of Maynard’s death.
“Spike was a true West Virginian, a brilliant legal mind and a champion of the conservative cause,” Lucas said.
“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 thanked Maynard for taking the “political risk” of switching parties.
“There is no doubt he paved the way for others to follow in his footsteps,” Lucas said.
“In mourning his loss, I am proud that in his final years he was part of our political family.”
While Maynard eventually won the GOP nomination, he lost to the longtime congressman by a 56 percent to 44 percent margin.
Lucas and Maynard became friends while running in the primary. Although he lost to Maynard, Lucas described the former justice as a good-hearted southern gentlemen who’ll go down in West Virginia history as one of its most charming and colorful political characters.
“I can’t imagine a single person who met Spike who will ever forget him,” Lucas said.
Visitation for Maynard will be held Saturday at Weaver Mortuary in Williamson. His funeral will be Sunday at Belfry Baptist Church in Goody, Kentucky.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.