Randy Yohe Published

Longtime Legislator, Banjo Player Chuck Romine Remembered 

Man with white Hair, red tie, blue suit talking to another man sitting down.
Del. Chuck Romine in the West Virginia House of Delegates.
Perry Bennett/WV legislative Photography

Flags at the Capitol and in Cabell County are at half-staff Thursday, honoring the life of longtime legislator Chuck Romine who passed away this week at age 87. Romine’s life combined politics and music – tied together with a passion for service. 

Family and friends from near and far are listening to CDs (maybe a cassette tape as well), enjoying Chuck Romine’s Dixieland, ragtime, jug band banjo and vocals. They are remembering a popular musician and a devoted public servant. Former Cabell County Del. Chad Lovejoy said his mentor in politics and life would sometimes turn the House Chamber into a concert hall. 

“He played on the floor,” Lovejoy said. “He and Shirley Love, who’s also passed, did a song together on the floor, and he would bring that banjo out to different legislative events.”

Shortly after being selected as Huntington Young Man of the Year in 1968, Romine was elected to the House of Delegates, then re-elected twice over the next 50 years – again in 1998 for one term – then one more in 2016. He retired in 2018 at the age of 83. That same year, Gov. Jim Justice awarded Romine one of the state’s great honors, a Distinguished West Virginian Award, after his life of dedicated service in public and private sectors.

Lovejoy said the Cabell County Republican, known for seeking consensus early, didn’t yearn for sound bites or the cause of the day, but conducted himself as politics “used to be.” 

He always fought for home. It wasn’t about Democrat, Republican, it was like, this is good for Huntington, this would be good for Cabell,” Lovejoy said.

Group of six men playing musical instruments
Banjo pickin’ Chuck Romine with The 1937 Flood band.

Courtesy of The 1937 Flood

In the 1960s and ’70s, Romine and his banjo led the Lucky Jazz Band. In 2001, he took a break from politics and joined the eclectic string group, The 1937 Flood (the band, not the disaster). 

Flood bandleader Charlie Bowen said Romine carried the best of music and politics wherever he went. 

Chuck was a born politician in every good sense of that word,” Bowen said. “He just naturally gravitated to people he didn’t know so he could get to know them. Governors and statesmen would have copies of 1937 Flood CDs, because Chuck would make sure they’d have one. He had a natural promoter’s instinct when it came to music because of his political background.”

Romine’s wife of 66 years, Phyllis, passed away less than three weeks ago. Lovejoy said the devoted couple seemed meant to stay together.

“He went to be with her, which is 110 percent the way he would want it to be,” Lovejoy said. 

A Marshall University graduate and 40 year State Farm insurance agent, Chuck Romine lived an active life. Besides decades as a musician and bandmate, he gravitated to the water in his younger years as a boater, water skier, fisherman, lifeguard, swim instructor and competitive diver. He had a passion for golf, shooting pool and getting together with his Thursday night poker club.  

Lovejoy said Romine taught him the skills of considering all sides of an issue, how to hand-tie a bow tie, coming from a time when manners and etiquette mattered. He said this father and grandfather figure was a friend and mentor to him, and so many others. 

“As a citizen, a friend, husband, father, he was a consummate gentleman,” Lovejoy said. ”He’s a giant to me. You get role models that you love and say that’s the kind of guy I’d like to be as a husband, a father and as a legislator.”