This news story originally provided by The
Captain of industry
By MICHAEL BROWNING, Managing Editor
It's a long road from Delorme, W.Va., to the top of corporate America, but one Mingo County native made the journey and has found that hard work does pay off.
Don L. Blankenship is currently president, chief executive officer and chairman of the board of Massey Energy Company. With 2001 sales of more than $1.2 billion dollars, Massey Energy is the fifth largest coal company in the United States.
Blankenship, who started with Massey Energy at Rawl Sales in Sprigg, worked his way up to head what is now the 950th largest corporation in America.
Born on March 14, 1950, in Stopover, Ky., just across the river from his home in Delorme in Mingo County, Blankenship is a native of Central Appalachia. After graduating from Matewan High School, he attended Marshall University in Huntington, where he earned a degree in accounting in 1972.
Blankenship said he's writing a book on his life experiences. That book will most likely contain his philosophy that prevents him from saying what people want to hear. He said he tells it like it is.
Very outspoken on several state issues, Blankenship takes no prisoners and calls them like he sees them. He said his stern positions on issues such as permitting and coal truck weight limits sometimes makes him unpopular.
"I don't do real well at being politically correct," Blankenship said. "I'm more likely to try to be correct than politically correct because I know that being politically correct may get you through the day, but being correct should get you through life."
Blankenship said sometimes it's hard for people to discern when he's speaking as a West Virginian and when he's talking as a company executive.
"I've been accused of being very outspoken," he said. "Sometimes I think I might be more outspoken than others might be because I am a West Virginian and I think that entitles me to be an outspoken president. It's hard to tell when I'm speaking as the CEO of Massey Energy or as a frustrated West Virginia citizen.
"A lot of my comments are frustrated West Virginia citizen comments, having been in small business in West Virginia in a gas station and seeing it and all the other gas stations in southern West Virginia driven out of business by a tax system that is unfair and seeing the opportunity that I have to create prosperity in southern West Virginia get squandered over what I call nonsense in the permitting and trucking issues. So, sometimes I'm speaking from one aspect and sometimes from another and it's difficult for the media and the community to discern between the two."
Blankenship said his comments are often times misunderstood and seen as self-serving. He said that's the farthest thing from the truth.
"If I were trying to be self-serving, I probably wouldn't be here in West Virginia at all," Blankenship said. "It's sort of ironic I make a lot of money, which causes a lot of people to be selfish, and yet it's something I'd prefer they'd look at as a hometown boy doing well. They tend to look at it as something that I'm not deserving of and it causes them to be even more negative."
But, no matter what some people may think of Blankenship, many more are grateful for what he does for southern West Virginia.
Blankenship never forgets his roots. Massey Energy operates coal companies in five of West Virginia's most impoverished counties. Massey Energy can always been seen lending a helping hand in community and school activities. Recently, Blankenship and Massey Energy held a Christmas party for needy children. At the party, Massey provided the kids with food and refreshments and presents.
He often donates man power, equipment and money to Matewan High School and its many academic and athletics programs. This past summer, Blankenship and Massey Energy donated nearly $60,000 to the Matewan High School Alumni Association for the football program. Throughout the summer, Blankenship sent Massey workers to Matewan High to help repair the football field, which was swamped under mud and debris following the May 2 flooding.
Massey also donates countless dollars and materials to schools all across southern West Virginia.
Matewan High football coach Danny "Yogi" Kinder said Blankenship is crucial to the survival of football in Mingo County.
"If it weren't for Don Blankenship and Massey, Matewan High School probably wouldn't have a football team," Kinder said. "Massey is the only one around doing anything for these kids. You can't ask for a better guy than Don Blankenship. Massey even helped renovate Williamson High's football field last year for the playoffs. Massey does a lot of good stuff for the community."
Massey Energy is also the sponsor of the state's oldest All-Star football game, the Massey Energy Hatfield-McCoy Senior Bowl, which is held the last Saturday in July each year at MHS's Tiger Stadium. The game, headed up by Kinder, allows 30 players from southern West Virginia and 30 players from eastern Kentucky to play one more football game following their graduation from high school. the game also gives college coaches one more look at some of the coal fields' top talent.
Players have received scholarships to further their football careers and to get a college education because of the game.
A certified public accountant, Blankenship was the recipient of the 1999 Marshall University Most Distinguished Alumni award and also was inducted into the Marshall University Business Hall of Fame.
Blankenship, a Sprigg resident, serves on the board of directors of the National Mining Association; the Norfolk Southern Advisory Board and the board of advisors of the Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center of West Virginia at West Virginia University.
He supports many community efforts, including the Economic, Community and Development Council for the town of Matewan and the Massey DOCS Program at Marshall University. Blankenship is a member of the Advisory Committee of Hope Housing; the Mingo County Redevelopment Authority and many other local social and educational projects.