Hunter Holloman – thanks for the ride

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 10, 2007

It’s always tough to say goodbye.

While their respective careers resembled more of a roller-coaster ride…such is the case in the life of an elected official, no one can deny the fact that Howard Hunter Jr. or Robert Lee Holloman loved Hertford County, the Roanoke-Chowan area and northeastern North Carolina.

They will now take that love to their graves and we’ll be left grieving over the question, what if?

What if they could have overcome their separate illnesses and risen to greater positions of power within state government. What if they could have struck around a little longer and seen the fruits of their labor come to past.

Sure, politicians have more than their fair share of enemies, but from my professional association with Hunter and Holloman, I saw both men “turn the other cheek” on more than one occasion and trudge forward in their efforts to make our little corner of the state a better place to live, work and raise a family.

On a few of those “cheek” occasions, it was this journalist on the other end of the phone or sitting across the table asking tough questions. Hopefully, that’s what they expected of a person in my position searching for the truth. All I ever hoped for from anyone, especially politicians, was a truthful answer.

I found both men to be open and honest with me, no matter the line of questioning.

I remember one particular occasion at the Pork Fest in Murfreesboro when Senator Holloman and I were among those selected to help judge one of the events. As we walked along the line of cookers, I asked the Senator, then serving his first term in office, was the political position what he had expected.

He told me it was all about give and take, saying that if a Senator from the western part of the state had a pet project that needed support, he would vote “yes,” fully expecting the return favor when he presented a project targeted for our area.

“If you’re going to play the game, you must learn how to play it well,” I remember him telling me.

The only downside to the game, according to the Senator, was that the pet projects from the more affluent areas of the state carried a lot more zeros at the end of their requests. Meanwhile, his requests paled in comparison, but yet he still went after the money just as hard as his counterparts from the larger areas of the state.

Senator Holloman was at the forefront of helping to secure funding for numerous projects in our area, including but not limited to Carolina Crossroads, the Advance Research Vehicle Center in Northampton County and emergency funds to help keep the doors open at Roanoke-Chowan Community College during a tough financial stretch several years ago.

On the other side of the political coin, Howard Jr. and I go way back. His 28 years in government (10 as a Hertford County Commissioner and 18 as a member of the North Carolina House of Representatives) runs parallel to the same number of years I have in newspaper work.

I really didn’t get to know Howard until he was my State House Representative in Raleigh. I admired his toughness and his willingness to always talk to one more person and solicit one more idea before calling it a day.

I can’t remember who exactly said it, but years ago one of his House colleagues in Raleigh referred to Howard as a “bantam rooster.” If you’ll close your eyes and picture Howard’s small frame and big heart, you’ll see a bantam rooster searching for its prey. In this case, the prey targeted by Howard was improvements in the way of life among his constituents back on the home front.

Howard played a huge role in helping to steer Nucor Steel to Hertford County. I remember all the smiles under the tent set-up outside the Hertford County Courthouse on the very day then North Carolina Gov. Jim Hunt made the official announcement that Nucor had committed to build along the banks of the Chowan River. Of all those smiles, none was broader than the one worn by Howard.

No matter if you agreed or not with their political styles and/or agendas, we lost two mighty big men in less than 24 hours this past weekend. The shoes they left to fill are enormous.

Funeral services are scheduled for Representative Hunter at 12 noon today (Thursday) at Soul Saving Station of Ahoskie. Private burial will be held for immediate family only.

A memorial/tribute service will be held for Holloman from 6-7:30 p.m. this evening (Thursday) at the Nebo Family Life Center, located on US 258 south of Murfreesboro. Holloman’s funeral service is scheduled for 11 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 12 at Nebo Baptist Church near Murfreesboro, where he served as pastor for a number of years. Burial will follow in Highland Memorial Gardens.

If you can’t attend either service, please simply drop your head during those aforementioned appointed hours and say a word of thanks for the contributions and sacrifices made by these two public servants. And while you’re at it, say a prayer for the families they leave behind. We need to thank them for letting us share in the hopes, dreams and love these two men had for our area.