CHARLESTON -- West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Joseph P. Albright died March 20 at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center due to complications of esophageal cancer.
In statements provided by the Supreme Court and others, his colleagues remembered him as a friend, family man and constitutionally-minded judge.
"I served with Joe Albright in the West Virginia House of Delegates and, throughout his career, he fought feverishly to make our state a better place," Gov. Joe Manchin said. "I am honored to have known him and to have called him my friend. We had spoken recently, and I know that he was eager to return to the Court. His desire to serve the state and its people was unparalleled.
"Our hearts go out to his wife, Nancie, and the entire Albright family. West Virginia has lost one of its finest public servants."
Recently retired Justice Larry Starcher said, "Joe Albright was my friend on the Court, my best friend. Joe Albright's judicial philosophy was one in which the Constitution protected everyone, the rich and the poor, the weak and the strong. He was colorblind when it came to applying the law. Truly, he was a giant among those of us who refer to ourselves as judges."
Chief Justice Brent Benjamin said, "Throughout Justice Albright's highly varied service – as a public attorney, a delegate, Speaker of the House, Justice, and Chief Justice – he always kept the faith. A man who adored his family and was always true to his friends, he will be remembered as one of the giants of West Virginia's public life."
Senior Status Justice Thomas McHugh, who has filled in for Albright during the justice's health struggles, said, "Joe Albright was a dedicated public servant who gave most of his life to the citizens of West Virginia. It has been a great honor for me to have served with him and to have served in his stead during his illness."
Justice Margaret Workman said, "The passing of Justice Joseph P. Albright is an immense loss to our state and to his family and many friends. I served with Joe on the Supreme Court. He had a brilliant legal mind, a spirit of compassion for people, and great strength of character."
Justice Menis Ketchum said, "I've lost a good friend. My heart goes out to (Albright's wife) Nancie and the Albright family."
Justice Robin Jean Davis said, ""Justice Albright's life touched thousands of others' lives. He was fundamental in shaping the very fabric of our state."
Putnam Circuit Judge O.C. Spaulding, president of the state judicial association, said, "Justice Albright's intellectual disagreements with his judicial brethren were always spirited and passionate, but he remained a friend of every judge in West Virginia. Our state's judiciary has lost an enlightened voice. His contributions will be missed."
Supreme Court Clerk Rory Perry said, "I am deeply grateful for what I learned from Justice Albright over the past nine years. He was a patient teacher and a faithful public servant, and I will miss him greatly."
Supreme Court Administrator Steve Canterbury said, "Until the very end, Justice Albright remained connected to the work of the Court electronically, and continued to be the consummate public man. His mind remained sharp and his spirit lively."
Allan N. Karlin, president of the West Virginia Association for Justice, said. "For nearly 40 years, Justice Albright committed his life to public service-first as a legislator from Wood County, then as Speaker of the House and a justice on the West Virginia Supreme Court. He was exceptional, both as someone who made laws and then as a jurist who read and interpreted those laws on the bench.
"Justice Albright reached the highest position in our court system, but he never wavered in his commitment to and compassion for West Virginia and her people. We have lost a truly exceptional public servant."
Albright was appointed to the bench by Gov. Gaston Caperton in 1995, to serve out the remainder of an unexpired term until Dec. 1996.
Albright successfully ran for election to the bench in 2000.
Albright previously had served in the state House of Delegates from 1970 to 1972 and then again from 1974 to 1986. He was Speaker of the House during his last two years in office and chaired the powerful House Judiciary Committee from 1979 to 1984.
The justice also was an assistant prosecutor in Wood County, city attorney for the city of Parkersburg, held a private practice and served as director of the family business, Belpre Furniture.
Albright earned both his undergraduate and law degrees from Notre Dame.
He is survived by his wife, the former Nancie Gensert Divvens; three children, Terri Albright Cavi, Dr. Lettie Albright Muckley, and Joseph P. Albright, Jr., Esq.; and three step-children, Susan Divvens Bowman, Debbie Divvens Rake, and Sandy Divvens Fox. He was preceded in death by his first wife, Patricia Ann Deem, and their son, John Patrick Albright.
Benjamin entered an order March 23 appointing McHugh to fill in for Albright until Gov. Joe Manchin appoints a replacement.