- Associated Press - Sunday, May 28, 2017

BECKLEY, W.Va. (AP) - The 36th governor of West Virginia isn’t a newcomer to having titles. Besides his current title of “governor,” Jim Justice has been called a “billionaire” by Forbes magazine, the “CEO” of The Greenbrier, “coach” at Greenbrier East High School and “president” at Beckley Little League.

On Tuesday morning, Justice assumed a new title as he attended the 60th anniversary celebration of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Day School in Beckley - the same school both Justice and his daughter, Jill, had attended.

Justice attended the first class at St. Stephens, he told students.

“Can y’all believe this? A long time ago, when I was your age, I was here for the very first class,” the 6‘7” Justice told the group of two- to four-year-olds.

“You’re a baby!” one young voice later piped, to gales of laughter.

“Your name’s baby!” another child agreed.

“OK, I’ll be baby,” Justice agreed. “You can call me ‘baby.’”

The governor gamely kept the title for the rest of the visit, earning laughter from teachers and school administrators as he addressed himself as “baby.”

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Justice said the school held special memories for his family. He recalled his wife, Kathy, bringing his daughter Jill to school at St. Stephens. He viewed pictures of Jill at the school, presented by St. Stephens Day School Director Leah Wriston.

Later, Wriston read an official proclamation from the governor that recognized St. Stephens as a distinguished institution which had provided kindergarten at a time when public schools in the state began at first grade.

Founded by Ann Catherine May at a house on Ellison and Virginia Street, the school was moved to the church basement and to its permanent location at the educational building at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in 1960.

May worked with Nancy Pat Lewis-Smith and June Watts, who later served as directors at the school, to establish the school.

Current St. Stephens Director Leah Evans said the kids had been excited about Justice’s visit.

“Some of them had said that the president was coming,” Wriston reported. “(Justice) is great with the kids.

“It’s just been an honor to have him here.”

Smith’s daughter and longtime school director Langhorne Abrams, who retired in 2015, attended the celebration.

“My mother was one of the founders of the school and one of the first teachers, and then I worked here, so it’s special for us,” Abrams noted.

Playgroup teacher Kathy Trump said that teachers had prepared the young children for Justice’s attendance by telling them that there would be a special visitor.

“I think they did really well,” she judged.

Trump laughed at the kids’ nomination of the governor as “baby.”

“I think that’s hilarious,” she said.

The children sang “Country Roads” to the governor.

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After his visit with the children, Justice cemented his dedication to education for the state, again calling education the “centerpiece” for his development plan.

“I think education should be the centerpiece of everything we do, every single thing we do, everything in our economy,” he said. “These people are doing a great job of getting us on our way, but we know we’ve got a lot of holes in the bucket with education, and we’ve got to fix the holes.

“At the end of the day, we’ve got to shove education right to the forefront, fund it properly and do the right thing to be able to prepare our youth for the future.”

Justice gave accolades to the program at St. Stephen’s, which he said instills good principles and boasts a roster of very successful graduates.

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Information from: The Register-Herald, https://www.register-herald.com

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