Hunt remains a favorite

Published 1:21 pm Monday, June 4, 2012

I’m a longtime fan of former North Carolina Governor James B. “Jim” Hunt Jr.

It’s an easy thing to be because for a good portion of my life Hunt has been Governor of North Carolina, having served 16 years of my 40-plus in existence. He has been elected by North Carolinians to serve as their chief executive more than any person in the history of our state.

I have been told more than once in my life that I’m a little bit of a political geek and I guess my love for the institution of Governor of this great state falls into that category.

Since I was young I’ve always known who held the offices of both governor and lieutenant governor of North Carolina and the first such governor I remember is Hunt.

All of this is fresh on my mind because I recently read Gary Pearce’s book “Jim Hunt: A Biography.” Despite the fact I’m not the fastest reader in the world, I finished the book in four days. When I started reading, I couldn’t put it down.

In the book Pearce talks about the good, the bad and the indifferent in Hunt’s political life. He talks about his first two terms as governor, the 1984 U.S. Senate campaign against Jesse Helms and Hunt’s comeback to win two additional terms as our state’s chief executive.

What struck me most as I read the book was that Hunt was so driven and worked so hard for the people of North Carolina. Even people who may not have been wild about his politics knew he worked as hard as anyone for the people of North Carolina.

I was also struck by the fact that he was one of the south’s first governors to see change on the horizon as far as manufacturing plants and tobacco farms and to push North Carolina’s leaders to invest in the future.

Were it not for Hunt, I don’t believe there would be a Research Triangle Park. I don’t believe North Carolina would be a leader in research and innovation and I don’t believe we’d have some of the smartest people in the world living in Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill.

I’m certain education wouldn’t be moving forward without Hunt either. He has led not only a statewide campaign, but a nationwide effort to help our students learn, give teachers credit for doing an excellent job in the classroom and to bring attention to the problems we face in education throughout our nation.

I never thought Hunt was perfect and I’m sure he’d be willing to tell you the same thing. I don’t believe he thinks he is either. I think he is a person that has done his very best for the people he served.

I do want to share with you my own personal Hunt story.

Hunt has always been known for remembering names and faces and I came face to face with that myself when I was working with the Scotland Neck Commonwealth. While running for governor, Hunt made two stops in Halifax County and I covered both of them. I talked to him and got stories for our newspapers in Scotland Neck and Enfield.

Later, a friend came to the office and invited me to ride with them to a rally for Democrats in Greenville. I, of course, went. While standing there talking to my friend, I felt a hand grab my arm. It was Hunt.

“Thadd, did you go to Wilmington with me too,” he asked. “I didn’t see you, but you’ve been everywhere else with me today.”

Despite my age and the fact that I had been a reporter for a while, the only thing that went through my mind was, “Wow, the governor knows my name.”


Thadd White is Managing Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. He can be reached via email at or by telephone at 252-332-7211.