Former NC Governor succumbs

Published 7:16 pm Monday, June 17, 2013

PINEHURST – He changed the shape of North Carolina politics in the 1970’s by becoming the state’s first Republican governor since the turn of the 20th century.

James Eubert Holshouser Jr. passed away on Monday at First Health of the Carolinas Medical Center in Pinehurst following a period of declining health. Up until his death the 78-year-old former governor still practiced law….displaying the work ethic that carried him past some of the state’s Democratic heavyweights in the 70’s. There he was part of a state and national sweep by GOP candidates that included the election of President Richard Nixon and US Senator Jesse Helms.

It was Holshouser that helped set the table for today’s Republican Party, including another GOP member elected last year to occupy North Carolina’s Governor’s Mansion in Raleigh.

“James Holshouser was more than a friend and mentor, he was a genuine leader,” said Governor Pat McCrory. “His passing is not only a loss for the state of North Carolina, but for the countless number of people who were personally touched by his guidance and kindness. Ann and I will have the Holshouser family in our prayers.”

Holshouser served on McCrory’s transition team and offered advice on building a cabinet, preparing a budget and handling the demands of the governor’s office.

“His counsel was invaluable,” McCrory said. “Compassion was the foundation of Governor Holshouser’s life. He was a champion of education. He made health care available in counties that didn’t have doctors. And he provided historic professional opportunities to women and minorities. North Carolina is a better place because of his leadership and heart.”

Holshouser was the youngest North Carolina governor ever elected and the last governor not eligible to run for a second term.

According to information from his family, Holshouser remained an active public servant until just a few weeks ago as a member of the Board of Governors for the University of North Carolina system, the National Mortgage Settlement task force, and the Public Policy and Affairs group with the law firm of Nexsen Pruet.

He continued in law practice with his firm, Sanford Holshouser, in Pinehurst until his death. Holshouser and former Governor Terry Sanford joined forces in 1997 to promote strong economic development for North Carolina. And he partnered closely with former Governor Jim Hunt to promote strong education and state-funded judicial elections and with former UNC President Erskine Bowles to promote a strong university. Holshouser was committed to working in partnership with both Republicans and Democrats out of his commitment to serve all North Carolinians.

In a statement from his family, daughter Ginny shared, “We are grateful for the loving care of the staff at First Health and St. Joseph’s of the Pines and for the many friends and family who have so lovingly supported him and our family through the last several months. Most of all, we are grateful for his example of wisdom, integrity, love and servant leadership.”

Holshouser was also a long-term kidney transplant survivor and a strong advocate for organ donation. He received a kidney transplant in December, 1986. In a twist of fate, Jim and Pat Holshouser were married 52 years ago on Monday, June 17.

“As North Carolina’s first Republican governor in the 20th century, Gov. Holshouser made an indelible mark on our state’s history. He dedicated his life to serving others, and his legacy of strengthening our state’s public schools and universities continues to ensure bright futures for our students. Gov. Holshouser was a dear friend and trusted adviser, and I will miss him greatly,” said State Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger.

Education was a hallmark of Holshouser’s administration. He modernized and consolidated university governance under the University of North Carolina Board of Governors, a structure still in place today. He also spearheaded a historic capital improvement program for the state’s community colleges. He was a strong believer in early childhood education as well, establishing the first statewide enrollment of kindergarten students.

Holshouser paid special attention to the needs of rural North Carolina. As part of his health agenda, he established clinics in rural areas not served by local physicians. He also worked creatively to establish new economic opportunities through international trade. In September 1973, Holshouser led a North Carolina trade mission to the Soviet Union and Eastern European countries.

He also served on the board of Davidson College and, in 1987, successfully spearheaded a $50 million fundraising campaign for the institution. In 1990, he raised $12 million for St. Andrews, a Presbyterian college, and also served as its board of trustees’ chairman.

Following his kidney transplant Holshouser devoted much of his time and treasure to numerous organ transplant organizations, including the board of directors of the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS).

Holshouser’s commitment to economic development for struggling communities never waned, and, in 1995 his efforts were recognized. He received the Distinguished Public Service citation from the North Carolina Citizens for Business and Industry, now known as the North Carolina Chamber of Commerce.

Memorial service arrangements have not been announced. In honor of the life and service of Governor Holshouser, McCrory ordered all U.S. and North Carolina state flags to be immediately lowered to half-staff until the day of his internment.