Governor takes oath with help from old friends, his basketball players & warning about ‘James Justice’

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — As he himself tells it, the new governor of West Virginia has three personas: “Jimmy” who’s nice, “Jim” who’s serious, and then there’s “James.”

“You don’t want to see James,” Gov. Jim Justice told the crowd at the State Capitol Monday for his Inauguration Ceremony soon after he was sworn in as the Mountain State’s 36th governor.

“I know them all,” said Bob Cochran, a 40-year business associate of Justice’s and Monday’s master of ceremonies. “I like Jimmy the best. Jimmy is fun-loving and really challenges all of us to do the best we can. He believes we can all do great things and he’s going to be a great governor.”

Raleigh County Circuit Judge John Hutchison is a friend of Justice’s since they attended Woodrow Wilson High School and played basketball together 50 years ago.

“He truly believes that, if you think you can do it, you can do it,” Hutchison said after presenting the Bible for Justice’s Oath of Office.

Hours earlier, at 12:01 a.m. Monday, it was Hutchison who swore Justice in during a private ceremony at The Greenbrier Chapel using the same Bible — a gift from another Justice friend.

“You have to know Jim Justice to know that it was not hyperbole for him to say, ‘I’m not looking for something for me or my family. I’m looking to move the state (forward).’ He believes that and that is an honest statement from him,” Hutchison said.

“Jim has a vision and his vision is not mine or anybody else’s, but his works.”

In addition to including his longtime friends, Justice put other personal touches on Monday’s Inauguration Ceremony with a musical selection dedicated to his late father, James Conley Justice, a separate performance from The Greenbrier Entertainers and a Pledge of Allegiance courtesy of elementary students from schools in Greenbrier County.

Peter Furlong, a student at Lewisburg Elementary School, told MetroNews he didn’t need to practice. “We do it every day at school,” he said.

Seated prominently on the State Capitol steps Monday wearing their school colors of green and gold were members of the two basketball teams at Greenbrier East High School that Justice has said he’ll continue to coach while serving as governor.

“It honestly doesn’t feel any different at all,” said Katie Wilmer, a senior at Greenbrier East, of Justice’s new title. She’s only ever known him as “Coach.”

“He’s always going to be there, so he just has more business to take care of, I guess.”

Seth Brown, another Greenbrier East senior, felt “a little bit surreal” while watching the ceremony.

“He’s always just been a coach to me and to see him as the governor of West Virginia? That’s pretty crazy.”

“Never, I never thought we’d make it here really, but I knew he was a special person and he’s going to do very well.”

Members of the Greenbrier East girls basketball team coached by Justice walk down the Capitol steps to their seats.

As a judge, Hutchison admitted he’s not supposed to be political. “I’m not being political. I’m just telling you this is what my friend is like and he will help us,” he said.

“I take away from this hope. I really and truly believe that he (Justice) has the capacity to get us out of the hole we’re in and move us forward (as a state).”

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