Kanawha County Circuit Judge Charles King died Monday, the county announced in a news release.
King, 73, was elected as Kanawha Prosecuting Attorney in 1984, then was elected as Kanawha Circuit judge in 1988. He served on the bench for 20 years, until briefly retiring in October 2008, and returned in January 2009. King served until the day he died.
The county’s news release did not list a cause of death.
Kanawha Circuit Judge Duke Bloom said Monday that Kanawha County has lost its best-ever judge and one of its top prosecuting attorneys. He said he also has lost a dear friend.
“I don’t know anyone in the judiciary that I’ve been closer to or had more respect for,” Bloom said.
The judge said he first met King on the campaign trail in the 1984 prosecuting attorney race, remembering him as impressive, knowledgeable and friendly. He said other people at the time also thought the same of King.
“Everyone who met him loved him,” Bloom said. “He was just one of those people everybody instantly took a liking to.”
That relationship continued for decades, with King helping Bloom make the transition to the bench a little easier.
“He was truly — has always been — not only a good friend, but, when I went on the bench, he was really a mentor to me. He helped me in innumerable ways to make the adjustment from lawyer to judge,” Bloom said. “I’ll never be the judge that he was, but I appreciate all of his efforts to make me the best judge I could be.”
Kanawha Commission President Kent Carper said Monday that King will leave a legacy for his years of work in the county.
“Today, Kanawha County has lost one of its best and brightest. Judge King served the citizens of Kanawha County for more than 47 years,” Carper said. “Through his lifelong dedication to the justice system — both during his time on the bench and as a prosecuting attorney — Charlie King impacted thousands of lives.”
Carper said he had a long-running personal relationship with King.
“Charlie King was one of my lifelong best friends,” he said. “My wife, Debbie, and I will miss him dearly. My thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Phyllis, and his daughters, Amy and Stacy, during this difficult time.”
King stepped down from the chief judge position on Nov. 11. He told WOWK-TV the administrative duties that come with the position, such as opening and closing the Kanawha Judicial Annex because of positive coronavirus cases, had worn him down.
“I’ve had enough. It’s not been an easy job. Every day, there’s been a crisis,” he told the station. “It’s easy to close it down, but hard to get it back open and operational. It’s a constant battle.”
King issued an order on May 11 with 24 rules to be followed to ensure the safe reopening of the Judicial Annex, which had been closed for nearly two months at the beginning of the pandemic.
Kanawha Circuit Judge Carrie Webster took over the chief judge position after King stepped down. On Monday, Webster said that, more than anything, she recalls her early impressions of King while she was an attorney.
“I practiced before Judge King before I served with him,” Webster said. “He was an expert in the rules of evidence, and he grilled new attorneys and held them to a high standard when they were in the courtroom.”
King was wise, decisive and didn’t sweat the small things, Webster said. When she was appointed to the bench in 2009, Webster said, she went to King early on for advice on a tough case.
It was a case involving a juvenile being transferred to adult status. King told her before the hearing that the decision she made must be sound, but that she shouldn’t dwell on it.
“He said ‘Carrie. You just gotta rule. That’s what we do,’ ” she said.
Webster said she will always remember King for those moments early in her career.
“He’ll leave a huge gap in the 13th Judicial Circuit and he’ll be missed by everyone,” she said. “His legacy will continue on.”