Chris and Kameron Cline

Chris Cline never forgot his upbringing in the West Virginia coal mines. As his business savvy made him a billionaire, he did not forget his hometown of Isaban, his home state or its people, especially children, in need.

Mr. Cline, 60, died Thursday in a helicopter crash off the coast of his private island Big Grand Bay in the Bahamas with his beloved daughter Kameron, 22. Five others were lost in the tragic accident. Mr. Cline’s grandfather and father were coal miners. As a child, he was digging dirt and filling bags for his father to use in packing blasting holes. He earned a penny a bag.

He went to work underground as a teenager. After leaving Marshall University early to help his father in a punch mine, the enterprising Mr. Cline borrowed money to buy the company’s first continuous miner, an innovative improvement to coal production. He worked 16-hour shifts, seven days a week, month after month leading his crew, to pay it off. His big break came when he was able to buy an unprofitable mine for $1 million, improve its performance, and flip it for $17 million. One partner said, as quoted in Forbes, “He sees value in assets others overlook.”

He’d found his calling.

He never stopped doubling down on deals.

His coal enterprises took him from Appalachia to Illinois to Canada. He offered cash incentives to his miners, installed advanced and safe mining equipment, and was ahead of his time in anticipating the market for coal. A mining engineer said, according to a Forbes magazine profile of Mr. Cline, “Those guys would run through a wall for him.” Mr. Cline believed it was not enough to be innovative, you need a little luck. At Foresight, his four mine complexes were the most productive underground operations in the nation. He bought docks on the Mississippi River and built rail spurs to haul coal onto ships bound for India, Europe and Asia.

The boy from Isaban had become a man of the world.

Mr. Cline understood opponents of burning coal while defending coal and his role in supplying the world with it. He believed that people deserved the cheapest energy they could get. He had a curious mind, was eager to learn about everything and never stopped learning. As committed as he was to coal energy, for his Big Grand Cay property he installed solar panels and batteries. Where renewable energy sources made sense, he was eager to embrace them.

Upon learning of Mr. Cline’s death, President Trump tweeted to 62 million people: “My greatest sympathies go out to the family and friends of great businessman and energy expert Chris Cline, his wonderful daughter, Kameron, and their friends, on the tragic accident which took place in the Bahamas. The great people of West Virginia will never forget them!”

As a reminder of the source of his wealth, Mr. Cline’s first, battered hard hat is placed prominently above the fireplace of his Beckley mansion. At that house, he created a lake large enough for water skiing and a 400-foot water slide, built a go-kart track, and paint ball obstacle course. Though a billionaire, he never lost touch with the days that he lived in a single-wide trailer and used a blow dryer to thaw his water pipes.

Mr. Cline was generous with his philanthropy, publicly through the Cline Family Foundation, founded in 2009, but most importantly, privately, almost daily. The Foundation focuses on donations throughout West Virginia in recognition of the community’s contribution to his success. It offers scholarships and grants, endows universities, and financially supports charitable organizations that make life better for children and older youth.

Among other donations, the Cline Family Foundation gave millions to West Virginia University, Marshall University, Place of Hope, a foster care and adoption organization; Peacehaven Community Farm, a home for disabled adults; orphanages in West Virginia and Haiti; Save the Children; humanitarian aid organizations in Tanzania; churches; and the Raleigh County YMCA, among other organizations, and many needy individuals over the years. He also supported The Benjamin School from which his daughter Kameron graduated in 2015. Few people beyond the recipients know details of Mr. Cline’s many and constant personal acts of private charity.

He played as hard as he worked and was happiest in the company of his life-long friends and family. Mr. Cline kept close his friends from all phases of his life and regularly included them in his leisure activities. Sharing his adventures with his four children and his lifelong friends was his particular pleasure. He would take crowds of friends and family to the Super Bowl, the Big East Tournament, myriad other sporting events, and on his frequent world travels. He loved the beach and nothing pleased him more than sharing good times at his homes and on his yacht. Mr. Cline was an adventure junkie whether it was driving fast cars or riding a four-wheeler like a banshee through the West Virginia hills. He had a good relationship with his money: he was willing to spend it.

He had his beloved Candice with his first wife, Sabrina, who tragically died of cancer in 1987. While divorced from his second wife of ten years, Kelly Cline Fama, in 2000, they shared three wonderful children, Logan, Tanner and Kameron, and a relationship of mutual respect for the rest of his life. Mr. Cline often remarked that his children could not have better parents than Kelly and their step-dad, Phillip.

No matter what the demands of his business, Mr. Cline was devoted and committed to time with his children. In a statement, Mr. Cline’s family said that he was “one of West Virginia’s strongest sons, an American original, full of grit, integrity, intelligence, and humor.” Of Mr. Cline’s daughter Kameron, the family wrote that she was “a bright light to all who knew her, loving, smart, compassionate and full of joy and enthusiasm for life and other people.” She graduated from Louisiana State University in May 2019 with a business degree and concentration in finance.

Her Benjamin School teachers wrote: “Kameron and the entire Cline family were all members of The Benjamin School community. Around campus, Kameron was known for her fun and upbeat personality. She joined the track team and excelled at the long jump, even qualifying for the state finals during her first year on the team. Kameron and classmate Brittney Searson shared a strong friendship; they were voted "Attached at the Hip" in their class superlatives.” Ms. Searson died in the accident with her best friend. Kameron graduated from The Benjamin School in May 2015.

Mr. Cline’s survivors include a daughter, Candice Cline Kenan and her husband James Graham Kenan; two sons, Christopher Logan Cline and Alex Tanner Cline; and two brothers, Greg Cline and Kenneth Cline.

Kameron Cline’s survivors include her mother and step-father, Kelly Cline Fama and Phillip George Fama of Mooresville, NC; a sister and brother-in-law, Candice Cline and James Graham Kenan; three brothers, Christopher Logan Cline, Alex Tanner Cline, and Ethan Phillip Fama. Grandparents who died before her are Casey Eugene and Sybial Maxine Cantrell of Clendenin, WV; Paul and Lassie Cline of Isaban, West Virginia; and step-grandparents George and Mary Ann Fama of Beckley.

A remembrance service will be held at the Raleigh County Armory at 200 Armory Drive, Beckley, West Virginia at 5 p.m. on Friday, July 12, 2019. All who wish to share our celebration of these wonderful lives are welcome to attend.


  • A Remembrance Service Friday, July 12, 2019


Chris and Kameron Cline

have a memory or condolence to add?

Michelle Preece

July 18, 2019

David an I met Chris in 1995 or 94. We quickly became family, with Davey and Logan being one month apart in age. Kelly and I became great friends as well. I could never say a bad word about any member of this family. They were all so caring, kind and generous. Lots of great memories were made and I will always cherish each memory and each family member from the Cline family.
Little rotten Tanner, sweet Logan, sassy Kami and kind Candice through her high school and college years she was devoted and a hard worker. She loved her tennis adventures and still is one amazing woman. I loved seeing Paul Cline come up that driveway early mornings to check on everyone and all the construction taking place on the lake and race track. Love and prayers for each and every member of this family.

Ron Wechsler

July 12, 2019

Worked with Chris years ago Operating a Dozer, he treated me with much respect, I am saddened by his passing and I Pray for Strength and Healing that only CHRIST can give, my thoughts and Prayers are with all your Family.

Daniel Mills

July 12, 2019

What a great friend and business man, God be with you and your family.

Alicia (Warren) Vanatta

July 12, 2019

Chris Cline family,
I pray all the years of happy memories will be a comfort to you. My thoughts and prayers are with you now and always.

Sharon Williams

July 12, 2019

My Mom, Mary Ellen Williams, Beckley has wonderful memories of this kind and generous man and deeply saddened by this tragic loss. Prayers for all and hope to meet you in heaven

Vivian Collado

July 12, 2019

My deepest condolences to the Cline Family. Praying for you. Mr. Cline, it was such an honor to serve you for the past 10 years. I'm not saying good-bye. I'll see you soon in Heaven. Until then...

Love, Your Flight Attendant

Linda Gilley Asbury

July 12, 2019

Sorry but it keeps getting my name wrong. It is Linda Gilley and lived in Brenton for 17 years . .He was a great person. RIP. Keeping all in my prayers.

Linda Holley Asbury

July 11, 2019

I knew Chris well. We went to school together. And I always thought so much of him. He was a really great person. Always nice to everyone. They didn't come no better than him. This has just broke my heart. I have thought of him constantly. Hadn't seen or talked to him in years
But he deserved everything he had. You always ask why him
But that is something we just don't no. When it is your time. God comes to take you home. My prayers are with the family and friends. My God help you though this rough time. Will continue to pray for all
And my God bless and be with you all.

Terry Bishop

July 11, 2019

Greg, I have followed your Brother's career for years and have always found his successes to be inspiring. I vicariously shared in his accomplishments because of our shared roots. I remember well when your family moved to Brenton and , yes, I remember the mobile home well. It was obvious you were a quality family. Chris was that little blonde boy with the perfect smile hanging around you and Sidney. I wish you and your family the best and , please, accept my condolences.

Stephanie Sayre

July 11, 2019

So very sorry for your loss. I was introduced to Chris in 2003 when a bunch of us met for dinner in Jupiter, FLorida. What I noticed first was his wonderful sense of humor and then his GREAT stories. After chatting a bit we found out I went to high school with his cousin Charlie! After that it was more stories as he talked about Ripley and his visits with Charlie. I will always remember what a nice fella he was and his easy laugh. I never had the pleasure of meeting Kameron and from what I'm reading about her, she sounds just as wonderful as her Dad. I am keeping each of you in my prayers and asking God to give you comfort. ❤ XOXO