West Virginia Capitol Murals Now Include Governor Justice’s Famous Bulldog, Babydog

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Written By Kanisha Laing

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The English bulldog had never been a big part of West Virginia’s history until now. Governor Jim Justice’s 4-year-old bulldog, Babydog, is now featured in murals at the state Capitol, along with other cultural symbols like Abraham Lincoln and Appalachian folk music. In one mural, Babydog sits calmly between a banjo player and an artist painting Seneca Rocks, a famous natural landmark in West Virginia.

Babydog gained fame in 2022 when Governor Justice lifted her during his State of the State speech, pointing her rear at the camera in response to Bette Midler’s negative comments about West Virginians. Justice told Midler and others to “Kiss her heinie,” which got a standing ovation.

Justice, a Republican running for the Senate, has made Babydog a minor celebrity in West Virginia. The dog was a gift from his children in 2019 and has been part of the governor’s travels and campaigns, including the “Do it for Babydog” COVID-19 vaccination campaign.

Justice claims he was surprised to see Babydog in the murals, saying he wasn’t involved in the decision. A committee led by Randall Reid-Smith, the Secretary of the Department of Arts, Culture, and History, chose to include an English bulldog, supposedly representing Babydog’s ancestor.

Justice, who owns the Greenbrier Resort and many other businesses, was first elected governor as a Democrat in 2016 but switched to the Republican Party in 2017. He recently won the Republican Senate primary against U.S. Rep. Alex Mooney.

Some, like his Democratic opponent Wheeling Mayor Glenn Elliott, criticize Justice for focusing on Babydog instead of more serious matters. Elliott called Justice unfit to represent West Virginia in the Senate.

The state Capitol was designed by architect Cass Gilbert, who also designed the U.S. Supreme Court building. Gilbert’s original plan for the Capitol included murals that were never completed due to funding issues. The new murals, including the one with Babydog, were funded by $350,000 in state money.

The murals also now include depictions of African Americans and various animals, added after initial designs were made public.

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