The History of Jenkins Fenstermaker and Our Tristate Attorneys
Jenkins Fenstermaker was built on a foundation of dedicated, personalized service, approachability, responsiveness, and commitment to the success of our clients. It’s a proud tradition that the tristate litigation and business attorneys of our firm carry on today.
Humble Beginnings: A History of Jenkins Fenstermaker
When John Jenkins, Sr. was two years old, his father, a coal mine engineer, was killed in an underground explosion. Jenkins grew up in Philadelphia, attended the Girard School for Boys (a high school for orphans), graduated from Girard College, and served in France in World War I as an administrative assistant to Colonel George S. Wallace in the Judge Advocate General’s office of the Army.
At the conclusion of World War I, Jenkins returned to Washington, D.C. and took a position as an Administrative Assistant to J. Edgar Hoover, who at that time was the second ranking officer in the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). While he worked for the FBI in the daytime, Jenkins attended Georgetown University Law School at night and received his law degree in 1923.
At the invitation of Colonel Wallace, who was, at that time, one of the leading tristate attorneys practicing in Huntington, WV, Jenkins moved with his wife to Huntington and worked for Colonel Wallace for approximately six months. Thereafter, he opened his own law office as a solo practitioner. This marked the beginning of our service of clients in WV, OH, and KY.
During the 1920s, Jenkins worked primarily as a real estate lawyer representing the State Planters Bank & Trust Company of Richmond. This bank was the leading financier of residences and commercial properties in the Huntington area. During the 1920s, he was active in doing the legal work on behalf of the bank in making these loans. After the Great Depression, which began in 1929, he was involved in a number of foreclosures.
During the 1930s, Jenkins served as a U.S. Referee in Bankruptcy. Beginning in the early 1940s, he began to develop a litigation practice. Jenkins represented a number of insurance casualty companies; the Coca Cola Bottlers’ Association, which insured all Coca Cola Bottlers against foreign substance claims; Atlantic Greyhound Lines; and Markel, the principle insurer of all long haul truckers.
In 1950, upon his graduation from law school, Jack Jenkins joined his father in law practice. The firm’s offices consisted of two rooms on the 11th Floor of the West Virginia Building. Jenkins, Sr. occupied one of these rooms, and Jack and the secretary occupied the other, which also served as the reception area.
In those days there was no air conditioning, and the western exposure of the offices made for very hot working conditions. Initially, there were no dictating machines or copy machines, and all papers had to be manually typed. This involved a considerable amount of secretarial work, because West Virginia litigation involved common law pleadings which were very detailed and extensive compared to code pleading, which was subsequently adopted. There was no discovery in state cases, and trials were very exciting.
In 1956, Jenkins, Sr. suffered a stroke while sitting at counsel table immediately following his closing argument to a jury in a case at Madison in Boone County, WV. He made a slow, but good recovery from the paralysis associated with the stroke and, in about a year, returned to active practice, including some litigation. John Jenkins, Sr. died in 1960.
Starting in the late 1950s and continuing in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, the firm gradually expanded, continuing to provide quality legal services with an eye toward maintaining a firm size that allowed for client-focused and efficient service.
As the well-established law firm in WV continued to grow, also serving OH and KY, legal specialization began to develop in law practice in this area. The firm developed specialties in litigation, business and commercial law, labor and employment, and estates, wills, and trusts.