Remembering Chris Cline

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — He did so much for so many.

That was how some of those who knew Chris Cline, the West Virginia native, billionaire coal executive and philanthropist, were remembering him after his death alongside six others, including one of his daughters, in a helicopter crash.

“He invested in West Virginia and his indelible mark will be felt for generations,” said West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Evan Jenkins, a former congressman and past state lawmaker from Cabell County which is home to Marshall University.

(Hoppy Kercheval writes about Cline’s life and contributions.)

Justice Evan Jenkins

Cline was one of the seven people killed when a helicopter crashed off Big Grand Cay in the Bahamas early on the morning of July 4th.

At the time, the helicopter was en route to Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

It was reported missing around 3 p.m. Thursday when it did not arrive after a 2 a.m. takeoff, information from investigators indicated.

The helicopter was later found about two miles off Grand Cay.

Also on board was one of Cline’s daughters, Kameron, a recent LSU graduate, and David Jude, the helicopter pilot, a Cline friend and Kermit native, according to Brian Glasser, a Charleston attorney who represented Cline.

The other crash victims were not being publicly identified as of Friday morning.

In all, there were four women and three men.

Agencies leading the crash investigation included the Department of Civil Aviation and the Royal Bahamas Police and Defense Force.

“I’m in disbelief,” said Mike Hamrick, athletic director at Marshall University.

Mike Hamrick

Hamrick and Cline were students at Marshall together before Cline left Marshall to work in the coal mines.

In later years, the two reconnected when Hamrick took over as AD for the Herd.

“He was driven. He had a desire to show that somebody from West Virginia could be as successful as anybody out there,” Hamrick said.

By all accounts, Cline, a Wyoming County native who later lived in Raleigh County, shunned the spotlight during his life.

“His good deeds came through the support for so many projects from Marshall University to Beckley and all parts and throughout West Virginia,” said Justice Jenkins.

“Here’s a man who not only achieved incredible things professionally, but loved his state like few others and gave back in such extraordinary ways.”

Bloomberg once called Cline the “New King of Coal.”

In December 2017, Cline was profiled in Forbes after acquiring Big Grand Cay.

Bill Raney

Bill Raney, president of the West Virginia Coal Association, said Cline was a pioneer in the coal industry.

After selling his companies in West Virginia, Cline turned to high-sulfur coal in Illinois with Foresight Energy before later investing significantly in Canada.

“It’s one of those things where he just looks ahead in a different way than other folks look ahead,” Raney said.

“It’s a sad, sad time when you lose somebody that you knew so well that is so familiar and has been such a stalwart in the industry here in West Virginia.”

Cline, who would have turned 61 on Friday, was not interested in self-promotion, according to Raney.

He (Cline) was “very quiet and didn’t want any recognition. He’d get lost in a crowd which is the way he wanted to do things. You oftentimes didn’t even know he was there at many things. He just didn’t want the attention, Raney said.

A native of Wyoming County, Cline later attended Marshall University before founding the Cline Group and Foresight Energy.

Gary White

Gary White is vice chair of Marshall University’s Board of Governors and a former Marshall interim president.

“It’s just truly amazing what a visionary Chris Cline was,” White said on Friday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”

“He came from humble beginnings and never forgot where he came from and he took care of those who were in need and also took care of his employees and those who he surrounded himself with. It’s truly a remarkable and wonderful legacy.”

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