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Long’s passing mourned

The self-proclaimed “oldest rat in the barn” passed away Monday.

Retired North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Jim Long, 68, succumbed after a stroke two weeks ago and is now being remembered as one of North Carolina’s best public servants.

“Jim Long was a giant of a person, a tremendous public servant and a close personal friend,” said North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue. “He was serious when it came to helping the public and at the same time he had an infectious sense of humor and personality. His red tie was legendary and so was his commitment to North Carolina. North Carolina has lost a great leader.”

Long served as Commissioner of Insurance for 24 years before deciding not to seek reelection last November. He went with current Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin to file for the post, showing his support for his longtime deputy.

Goodwin called Long a “dear friend” and praised his years of leadership.

“Our hearts are broken over the loss of our former leader and dear friend, Jim Long,” he said. “For 24 years, we were fortunate enough to work by his side, sharing both personal and professional triumphs and disappointments, laughter and sorrow. He was a mentor and friend to all of us, and we will miss him more than words can express.”

United States Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) also praised Long’s career of service.

“(The) news that Jim Long passed away was very saddening to our family,” Senator Burr said. “I had the opportunity to work with Jim on several occasions and was always delighted when our paths crossed. His service to the state of North Carolina as the Insurance Commissioner was exemplary, and the whole state has benefited from his work.”

In addition to serving as Insurance Commissioner, Long was also Fire Marshal for the state of North Carolina.

His duties as Fire Marshall endeared him to many in eastern North Carolina. Under Long’s leadership, the department set up grants to small fire departments throughout North Carolina that helped buy much-needed equipment.

“I’m sure Jim Long was a good Insurance Commissioner,” said Charles Jones, who was a longtime Winton Fire Department Chief. “But, day-to-day and week-to-week, there was no better friend to fire and rescue. He was a true friend and an advocate for volunteer fire and rescue in this state.

“We received multiple grants from his office,” Jones continued. “Without that support, we wouldn’t have the equipment we have today. I can’t say enough about what he did for fire and rescue in this state.”

The current Winton Fire Chief, James Broglin, echoed those thoughts.

“We’ve been getting those grants for many years,” he said. “They have been a plus for volunteers. Jim Long’s office has been a big asset to fire departments in northeastern North Carolina.”

Windsor Fire Chief Billy Smithwick said he believed Long has made a lasting difference for small fire departments.

“He initiated the grant program that was started for small, rural fire departments,” Smithwick said. “It helped those departments an awful lot. Just in this county, there are probably eight different departments that benefited from his work. He was instrumental in getting that done.”

A memorial service is planned for the late commissioner at 2 p.m. today (Thursday) at Hayes-Barton Baptist Church in Raleigh. The funeral will be held at Holy Comforter Episcopal Church in Burlington on Friday. Burial will follow at Pinewood Cemetery.