Warren McGraw, longtime West Virginia political force, retires from judge’s role

Warren McGraw, a West Virginia political power in two branches of government, is retiring from the bench.

Warren McGraw

McGraw, most recently a circuit judge in Wyoming County, has submitted his resignation letter to Gov. Jim Justice, as first reported by Beckley’s Register-Herald newspaper.

“It is with great regret and sadness that, after 55 years of service to my fellow citizens of Wyoming County and the State of West Virginia, I must retire as circuit judge of the 27th Judicial Circuit,” McGraw wrote.

His letter alluded to coping with Parkinson’s Disease, a progressive nervous system disorder that affects movement.

“As a result of my physical impairments due to Parkinson’s Disease, it has become too difficult to fulfill the duties of Judge in this great state of West Virginia.”

McGraw had a long political history in West Virginia, with influential roles in the state Senate and the Supreme Court. He said his retirement would be June 21, a Monday that coincides with when West Virginia Day will be observed this year.

His family’s political influence also involved his brother, Darrell McGraw, who served a 12-year term on the Supreme Court and then was elected as the state’s attorney general for five terms.

Current members of the Supreme Court expressed appreciation for Warren McGraw’s many years of public involvement and concern for his health.

Evan Jenkins

“Judge McGraw has dedicated his life to serving the people of West Virginia. I’m saddened to learn of his health concerns and truly wish him the very best,” stated Chief Justice Evan Jenkins.

“I’m sure his decision to resign was a difficult one, but he did so knowing it was in the best interest of the important work he does each and every day as a judge.”

Bill Wooton

Justice Bill Wooton, who also has served both in the Legislature and on the Supreme Court, also praised McGraw.

“Warren McGraw is a skilled lawyer and jurist with a lifetime of public service, including two terms as president of the West Virginia Senate and a Supreme Court Justice. It is sad news that my long-term friend will be stepping down from the bench of the Circuit Court in his beloved Wyoming County,” Wooton stated.

“That he will do so on West Virginia Day is most fitting, as he is truly a great West Virginian and a part of West Virginia history.  I wish he and his wife Peggy all the best in their well-earned retirement.”

McGraw, 82, was a two-term member of West Virginia’s House of Delegates and then served three terms in the state Senate, rising to become president.

He left the Senate to run for governor but didn’t win the Democratic primary. He returned to Wyoming County, where he was elected to the local school board and then became prosecutor.

In 1998, McGraw campaigned for an unexpired six-year term on the state Supreme Court and won. He served as chief justice in 2001.

During the 2004 campaign for a full term on the Supreme Court, McGraw participated in one of the most contentious races in state history. A political action committee called “And For the Sake of the Kids,” backed by coal executive Don Blankenship,” pounded McGraw with advertisements.

One incident from that campaign resulted in a memorable political moment. McGraw was campaigning at a Labor Day rally when he spotted a political tracker. The justice’s animated reaction became known as “The Scream at Racine” and became fodder for ads that were used against him.

McGraw lost his reelection campaign for the Supreme Court to Brent Benjamin, who had been supported by business groups.

McGraw returned again to Wyoming County and won races for circuit judge in 2008 and 2016.

David Stover

His career received praise from current state Senator David “Bugs” Stover, a Republican from Wyoming County. Stover expressed awe at the many roles McGraw had played in West Virginia public life.

“In other words Warren has been one of two heads of the West Virginia legislative branch of government, head of the West Virginia judicial branch of government, and second in command of the executive branch of government and came close to winning the governor’s race,” Stover wrote on Facebook.

“He is and has been my dear friend and mentor since I was a high school student.”

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