James Holshouser

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James Holshouser
James Holshouser official photo (cropped).jpg
68th Governor of North Carolina
In office
January 5, 1973 – January 8, 1977
LieutenantJim Hunt
Preceded byRobert Scott
Succeeded byJim Hunt
Member of the North Carolina House of Representatives
In office
Chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party
In office
Personal details
James Eubert Holshouser Jr.

(1934-10-08)October 8, 1934
Boone, North Carolina, U.S.
DiedJune 17, 2013(2013-06-17) (aged 78)
Pinehurst, North Carolina, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)Patricia Ann Hollingsworth
Alma materDavidson College
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

James Eubert Holshouser Jr. (October 8, 1934 – June 17, 2013) was an American lawyer and politician who served as the 68th Governor of the state of North Carolina from 1973 to 1977. He was the first Republican candidate to be elected as governor since 1896, when Republican Daniel L. Russell was elected as a Fusionist candidate. Holshouser's election reflected the new political realignment of the South.

Early life[edit]

Holshouser was born in Boone, North Carolina in 1934 and was the son of James E. "Peck" Holshouser, who was United States Attorney in the middle district of North Carolina under President Dwight Eisenhower.[1]

Early political career[edit]

In 1962, two years after graduating from the University of North Carolina School of Law,[1] Holshouser was elected to the first of several terms representing Watauga County in the North Carolina House of Representatives, eventually becoming minority leader. North Carolina had been virtually a one-party, Democratic-dominated state since disfranchisement of blacks in 1899; Holshouser came from one of the few areas of the state where the GOP even existed. During the 1960s and 1970s, however, a number of Southern whites began shifting their support to the Republicans.

He chaired the state Republican Party from 1966 through 1972, following passage of federal civil rights legislation in 1964 and 1965 that ended segregation and authorized federal oversight and enforcement of suffrage for African Americans.

Gubernatorial career[edit]

In 1972, Holshouser defeated Jim Gardner for the Republican nomination for Governor, and then narrowly defeated Democrat Skipper Bowles in the general election with 51 percent of the vote, becoming North Carolina's first Republican governor elected since 1896. He was likely the beneficiary of coattails from Richard Nixon, who carried North Carolina and 48 other states in the Presidential election on the same ticket.[1] Electorally, he performed well among women and younger voters, while also appealing more to blacks than more conservative Republicans such as Gardner and U.S. Senator Jesse Helms.[2] At age 38, Holshouser was also the state's youngest governor since the nineteenth century.[1] Upon taking office, he fired many incumbent state employees to accommodate the awarding of patronage to hundreds of Republicans who had been unable to work in the state administration under Democratic control.[2]

Holshouser lacked executive experience upon assuming gubernatorial office, and had a tenancy to react to others' proposals rather than create his own. With no veto power over the Democratic-dominated General Assembly, he also tried to avoid political conflict except over explicitly partisan issues.[3] In some instances the legislature attempted to weaken the powers of his office. Party association aside, Holshouser maintain a good relationship with the Assembly, as most of its members had known him when he was a state representative.[4] He enjoyed a good working relationship with Lieutenant Governor Jim Hunt, who held sway in the legislature, and during their first two years as governor they minimized partisanship in dealing with each other.[5] Holshouser came into office when North Carolina had a $265 million budget surplus, which enabled him to fulfill some of his campaign promises.[3] He consulted Hunt on budget proposals and incorporated his plan to expand kindergarten in state education systems in his January 1973 budget.[5] The plan was passed into law, and was gradually phased in so that by 1977 all children in North Carolina would be enrolled in kindergarten.[6] His budget also expanded funding for state parks.[7] Holshouser and Hunt encouraged the state legislature to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution, but it failed approval.[6]

Holshouser was a moderate Republican, which caused some chagrin among many members of his own party. The governor supported Gerald Ford for president in 1976, while Helms (a former Democrat) supported Ronald Reagan. When Reagan won the North Carolina presidential preference primary of 1976, the Republican state convention refused to appoint Holshouser as a delegate to the Republican National Convention.[1]

His accomplishments in office included consolidation of the University of North Carolina system under a Board of Governors, capital improvement funding for the community college system, statewide enrollment for children in kindergarten, and establishment of health clinics in rural areas not served by local physicians. He could not run for reelection in 1976. North Carolina governors were barred from immediate reelection at the time; while the state constitution had been amended to allow governors to run for reelection, this was not slated to take effect until 1976.

Later life[edit]

After leaving office, Holshouser returned to the practice of law (at one point forming a firm with former Democratic Gov. Terry Sanford),[1] was elected to the Board of Governors of the University of North Carolina, and later served as a member emeritus. He also served on the Boards of St. Andrews Presbyterian College in Laurinburg, NC, and his undergraduate alma mater, Davidson College.

Holshouser eventually became great friends with Democratic Lieutenant Governor Jim Hunt, who succeeded him in 1976. They served together on the North Carolina Advisory Board of DonorsChoose. Late in life, Holshouser campaigned alongside Hunt for state-funded judicial elections.[8]

He died on the morning of June 17, 2013.[9]

Legacy and honors[edit]


Works cited[edit]

  • Bass, Jack (1995). The Transformation of Southern Politics: Social Change and Political Consequence Since 1945 (reprint ed.). University of Georgia Press. ISBN 9780820317281.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Christensen, Rob (2010). The Paradox of Tar Heel Politics : The Personalities, Elections, and Events That Shaped Modern North Carolina (second ed.). Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 978-0-8078-7151-5.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Fleer, Jack D. (1994). North Carolina Government & Politics. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 9780803268852.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Grimsley, Wayne (2003). James B. Hunt: A North Carolina Progressive. McFarland. ISBN 9780786416073.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)

External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by
James Gardner
Republican nominee for Governor of North Carolina
Succeeded by
David Flaherty
Political offices
Preceded by
Robert Scott
Governor of North Carolina
January 5, 1973–January 8, 1977
Succeeded by
Jim Hunt