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Boy Scout Billionaire Donates $25 Million for 10,600-Acre Park

The Summit Bechtel Reserve
The scenic overlook onto what will be called The Summit Bechtel Reserve. Photographer: Gary Hartley/Summit Bechtel Reserve via Bloomberg

Jim Justice has fond memories of exploring West Virginia as a Cub and Boy Scout.

“I have a real love for the outdoors,” said Justice, 60. “And it began with my dad, with me waddling alongside him.”

Today, the chief executive officer of Justice Family Group LLC will announce a $25 million gift to the Boy Scouts of America, the largest single philanthropic donation he has made.

The money will support the creation of the Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve, a 10,600-acre park near his home in Lewisburg, West Virginia, that will host the organization’s 2013 National Scout Jamboree.

“I can’t think of an organization that has done more for kids,” Justice said by phone, noting that the Boy Scouts of America emphasizes character and citizenship. “If there’s anything we need today, it’s that.”

Justice earned a golf scholarship to the University of Tennessee and then transferred to Marshall University where he excelled in the sport and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

He joined his father’s company, Blue Stone Industries, and took over the business when his father died in 1993. Justice expanded into agriculture, timber, cotton gins and Christmas trees. Justice Family Farms LLC is one of the largest grain producers on the East Coast, according to a company spokesman.

In 2008, he sold the unit Bluestone Coal Corp. to OAO Mechel, a Moscow-based metals and mining company, for $1.45 billion. The following year, Justice bought The Greenbrier, a luxury resort in West Virginia’s Allegheny Mountains, for $20.1 million and rescued it from bankruptcy.

Other Gifts

Other philanthropists have made large gifts to support the scout reserve, such as Bechtel Group Inc. Chairman Emeritus Stephen D. Bechtel Jr., who gave $50 million, the largest donation to fund the land purchase for the BSA project.

Walter Scott Jr. of Level 3 Communications Inc. made a $25 million donation, and J. Brett Harvey, chairman and chief executive officer of Consol Energy Inc., chipped in $15 million. The BSA has raised about $200 million for the project from donors.

“The people who we track as donors are leaders in their community,” Wayne Perry, president-elect of the Boy Scouts of America, said by phone. “They remember the past, they see how the youth of America need this program. Jim’s gone on to be an unbelievable citizen.”

Justice, who will name one of the parks of the Scout Reserve after his father, said he learned about the BSA project during an elk-hunting trip in Colorado with Harvey.

“It was an easy call for me, but it was also a big, big step,” Justice said about the size of his donation. “At the same time, when you leave this life, it’s all about what you left behind.”

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