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James W. Martin, Jr.

Died: May 11, 2011

James W. (Smiley) Martin was born on September 2, 1944 in Clarksburg, WV to James Willoughby Martin, Sr. and Ruth Smiley Martin. He prepared at the Hill School, Pottstown, PA and entered Yale in the fall of 1962. Smiley was a sociology major with an interest in astronomy, which he occasionally told friends was his true major. He was a member of Ezra Stiles College, where he captained the intramural swimming team, and was a member of Phi Gamma Delta fraternity. Following Yale he entered the U.S. Army and served in Vietnam. After mustering out Smiley spent a year as a VISTA volunteer, then entered the University of West Virginia graduate school, where he was awarded a masters degree in public administration before going on to law and obtaining a doctor of jurisprudence degree. After graduation he worked initially as a legal aid attorney in southern West Virginia before opening a practice in Bridgeport, WV with Chip Lavender and John McCuskey.

In 1975 Smiley married Victoria (Dee) Stapleton, with whom he had two daughters and two sons. In 1991 he joined Laban White, Edward Siegrist, David Spelsberg, and Peter Conley to form what is now Siegrist and White, PLLC, a highly successful law firm in the state. Smiley became recognized as an expert in bankruptcy law, and his ability to obtain excellent results for his clients while treating opponents with respect and dignity made him a highly sought-after counsel in bankruptcy proceedings. Smiley served on the board of directors of the West Virginia Legal Aid Society and was president of the Harrison County Bar Association. He served on the boards of many civic organizations and businesses, including the Harrison County Bank, the Jane Lew Lions Club, and the Lewis County Park Board. He coached the Lewis and Harrison County swim teams and was involved in Sacred Heart, Boy Scouts, and the Children’s Treatment Center. He enjoyed fishing and hunting and working on his farm, where he raised ducks and geese and took in stray cats, a triumvirate that more tolerated than embraced each other’s existence. From the first time we saw him, we assumed Smiley was a nickname acquired with reference to his ever-present facial expression, never realizing it was a family name.

Smiley is survived by his bride of 36 years: Dee Stapleton Martin; daughters Ruth K. Martin and Sarah Elizabeth Martin; sons James W. (Will) Martin, III and Robert Smiley Martin; and two grandchildren, Vivienne Martin Mulkey and James Beatrix Martin Mulkey.