JAMES B. SIMPKINS, age 72, of Delbarton, was called to his heavenly home on April 28, 2021. His untimely passing was the result of a work-related accident near Danville, West Virginia. Born in Matewan, West Virginia, on February 21, 1949, James was the son of the late Benny “Benton” and Belle Regina “Jean” Simpkins. He was also preceded in death by a beloved son, Benton A. Simpkins.
A devoted family man, James lovingly cherished the memory of his parents and his son, Benton, long after their respective deaths. He longed for the day when he would be reunited with them, and what a reunion that must have been when he was called home to glory.
A graduate of Matewan High School, James entered the United States Army to proudly and bravely serve his country. Following an honorable military discharge with the rank of Sergeant in 1971, James returned home to Mingo County to marry his wife of 49 years, Zelora (“Lora”) Perry Simpkins, who survives him.
James was the embodiment of a hard day’s work and entrepreneurial spirit. Having owned, co-owned and operated 41 businesses in his lifetime, he was tireless in his commitment to provide for the well-being of both his family and the hundreds of individuals who worked for him throughout the years. An innovator and a visionary, James’ business ventures spanned multiple sectors, including the logging and timber industries, coal mining, agriculture and, most recently, industrial recycling. Well accomplished, yet modest of his successes, James left an indelible mark on each of these industries. Not surprisingly, he seldom talked about plans to someday retire. Working hard actually fueled his contentment, and even recently, he was making plans to pursue new and innovative business opportunities in his beloved Mingo County.
In 1980, a call to public service led James to seek election to the West Virginia Legislature, where he served six years as a member of the House of Delegates, from 1981 to 1986. During that time, he was instrumental in securing critical infrastructure funding for Mingo County, and he effectively provided a voice to his Mingo County constituents on the state political stage.
In 1989, James was selected to serve as one of five founding board members to the newly created Mingo County Redevelopment Authority. For more than 30 years, James remained committed to forging the Authority’s mission of providing for the civic and economic welfare of Mingo County. As the Authority’s longest serving board member, he led with passion, with vision and with creativity, and the fruits of his contributions will be evidenced for generations to come by the longevity of Mingo County development projects such as the Hatfield-McCoy Trails System, the Appalachian Regional Airport and the King Coal Highway, all of which he helped to pioneer.
With a true servant’s heart, James’ greatest call was the one that gave him immense and visible joy, and that was the call to serve his Lord, Jesus Christ. His witness and his testimony were ever present, allowing him to build lasting friendships with his brothers and sisters in Christ, and to be the Kingdom builder that God called him to be. He touched so many lives with his sweet and forgiving spirit and with his generous heart. He always counted it a blessing of his own when he was able to help others in need. And anytime he was asked how he was doing, his heartfelt and sincerest response was always, “I’m blessed!” Little did he know the blessing that he, himself, was to countless family, friends and acquaintances. James was a member of the Grace and Truth Bible Center.
In addition to his wife and lifelong business partner, Lora, James leaves behind to cherish his memory three beautiful daughters, Sarah Simpkins, Beth (Jason) Cantrell and Rachel Simpkins; one granddaughter, Kiara Cline; and three grandsons, Chance Cantrell, Brody Cantrell and Knox Christian. James adored his children and grandchildren, and the unconditional love that he showed them will surely bless each of them all of the days of their lives.
The oldest of six children, James is also survived by three brothers and two sisters, Ira (Donna) Simpkins, Randy Simpkins, Greg (Ginger) Simpkins, Betty (Roger) Charles and Shelia (Mark) Justice. The institution of family was incredibly important to James, and he leaves with his wife, his children, his grandchildren, his siblings, and a host of aunts, uncles and cousins a lifetime of beautiful memories of a heart full of amazing love.
Services to memorialize the life of James Simpkins were under the direction of Chafin Funeral Home of Delbarton. Visitation took place from 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, May 5, at Mingo Central High School, where there was ample parking and sufficient space to properly distance in accordance with COVID-19 guidelines. The family would like to extend its gratitude to the Mingo County Board of Education and the Mingo Central administration for graciously allowing the use of this beautiful facility.
Funeral services at Chafin Funeral Home took place the following day, Thursday, May 6, at 1 p.m. with his Pastor Paul Caudill officiating. Viewing and visitation was allowed the day of the funeral, beginning at noon. Burial in the Simpkins Family Cemetery on the Right Fork of Beech Creek.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Grace and Truth Bible Center.