‘Monk’ Harrington: a friend of the blue collar man

Published 1:14 pm Friday, September 12, 2008

The Roanoke-Chowan area has lost one of its greatest sons.

Joseph Julian “Monk” Harrington died in the early morning hours of Wednesday, Sept. 10 at his home in Lewiston. He may have passed away peacefully, but his long life of public service was anything but quiet.

This man was born to lead. He was a natural politician by all standards, but never considered entering politics until urged to do so by the legendary, now late, US Congressman L.H. Fountain.

Harrington never held any office other than representing northeastern North Carolina in the State Senate. First elected in 1963, he served 28 consecutive years in office, the final four of which saw him honored with the title of Senate President Pro Tempore, the highest ranking position, other than the Lt. Governor, in that branch of state government.

While his “country farm boy” charm won the hearts and minds of the slick lawyer-types in the State Capitol, Harrington banked on his rural upbringing to instill a common sense approach to government. He was indeed a “people person” – working hard to make a better life for his constituents back home as well as for those all across this great state.

His peers called him a legendary man with a kind heart, always seeking ways to help those in need.

But perhaps his greatest legacy is NC Highway 11, a road improvement project that some doubted would ever get off the ground back in the 1970’s. Today, that highway serves the heart of the Inner Banks, winding from Murfreesboro to near Wilmington.

That road, fitting Harrington’s persona, is dubbed the “Blue Collar Highway” – a road for the working man.

To the Harrington family, thank-you for sharing this great man with the rest of the state. We were proud to call him our Senator and, more importantly, our friend.