James Conway Higgins died peacefully at home on Nov. 30, 2017, at the age of 87.
He was born in Beckley, W.Va., on Jan. 22, 1930, to James S. Higgins and Florence Conway Higgins. He was a lifelong parishioner of St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church. He attended Stanton Military Academy, where he graduated in June 1948. He attended and graduated from the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., in May 1952 with a bachelor of science degree in commerce. He went on to receive his certified public accounting certification from the state of Indiana and continued his education and dream of becoming a lawyer by attending the University of Notre Dame School of Law, graduating in June 1955.
He worked in the family business, Higgins Grocery Co., while studying for the West Virginia bar exam. He passed the bar exam with honors, and was certified to practice law by the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia in April 1956.
Mr. Higgins was employed as an in-house attorney for Huelett Smith prior to opening the law firm of Higgins & Gorman. He then worked as a solo practitioner for six years before joining the firm of Persinger & Co. After 12 years with this company, he joined the firm of Rist, Higgins & Associates, where he practiced law until he retired at the age of 85.
Among his many accomplishments included serving as the City of Beckley police commissioner for 10 years. In 1968, Mr. Higgins argued before the West Virginia Supreme Court regarding whether public busing for parochial school students would be paid for with public funds. The Supreme Court ruled in Mr. Higgins’ favor, allowing public funding for the busing of parochial school students. He was awarded the Father Kerrigan Council of the Fourth Degree of Knights of Columbus Award for his outstanding work in the busing lawsuit. The lawsuit impacted all parochial school students throughout the state. In the estate planning area of law, Mr. Higgins drafted and enacted the first Clifford Trust in West Virginia, for the Conway family.
Mr. Higgins was an avid tennis player and a member of the Men’s Tennis Club, who donated the Ewart Avenue clay courts to the city of Beckley to make more tennis courts available to all ages of tennis players. He helped organize tennis tournaments with the resident tennis pro at the Greenbriar for the annual Coal Rodeo.
He enjoyed spending summers with family and friends at his residence on Martha’s Vineyard in the town of Aquinnah.
He was a very active parishioner at St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church, and also worked on a committee with the Archdiocese of Wheeling, assisting in the drafting of Vatican II. He taught CCD religion classes for 12 years at St. Francis de Sales.
Most important, Mr. Higgins leaves a lasting legacy of faith, love, and an undying belief in his family and the Roman Catholic Church.
Mr. Higgins donated his remains to the Human Gift Registry at the West Virginia University School of Medicine in Morgantown, W.Va.
He is predeceased in death by his beloved wife of 56 years, Mildred S. Higgins. He is survived by their 10 children: Jamie H. Eason, James C. Higgins II, John H. Higgins, Michael P. Higgins, Joseph E. Higgins, Thomas A. Higgins, Mary P. Bell, Vincent L. Higgins, Genevieve A. Cardile, and Katherine F. Nunez. Mr. Higgins is also survived by 17 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
A memorial Mass will be held at St. Francis de Sales Church at 11 am on Dec. 19; visitation will begin at 10 am at the church.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations kindly be made to the Alzheimer’s Association of West Virginia, 1601 2nd Avenue, Charleston, WV 25387.