Liston B. Ramsey
|Liston B. Ramsey|
|Member of the North Carolina House of Representatives|
February 26, 1919|
Marshall, North Carolina
|Died||September 2, 2001
Madison County, North Carolina
|Alma mater||Mars Hill College|
He was born in 1919 in rural Madison County, located deep in the Appalachian Mountains of western North Carolina. He was the valedictorian of his senior class at Marshall High School in 1936, and two years later he earned an associate's degree from Mars Hill College, then a junior college located in his native Madison County (in 1988, Mars Hill College would award him an honorary doctorate degree). During the Second World War, Ramsey served as a sergeant in the U.S. Army Air Corps in the Pacific Theater of the war. After the war, Ramsey was elected to serve on the town board of aldermen for Marshall, North Carolina.
In 1960, running as a Democrat, Ramsey was elected to the North Carolina House of Representatives. He served 19 consecutive terms in the state legislature and became one of its most influential members. In 1981 he was elected Speaker of the House and would spend four terms in that post; he was the first legislator in North Carolina history to hold the Speaker's office for four terms (a record tenure matched only by James B. Black). During his tenure as Speaker, he worked to transfer state funds to the often-neglected western mountain counties of North Carolina, building roads and other public facilities that would not have existed otherwise. A major accomplishment of his time as Speaker was the creation of the Liston B. Ramsey Activity Center at Western Carolina University. The Center, opened in 1986, features facilities for basketball, volleyball, and other sports, as well as sponsoring cultural activities on the Western Carolina campus.
In January 1989, Ramsey was ousted as Speaker of the House when Republican Governor James G. Martin secretly joined his party's forces with 20 Democratic state representatives led by Joe Mavretic. These Democrats, who represented North Carolina's larger cities, had grown resentful of what they regarded as Ramsey's autocratic control of the legislature, and of his tendency to support representatives from small, rural counties over those from more urbanized areas. Ramsey's adversaries derisively nicknamed him "Boss Hogg,"  after the corrupt, old-time political boss in the popular 1970s TV series The Dukes of Hazard. These twenty Democrats joined with the 46 Republicans in the State House to elect Mavretic as Speaker over Ramsey. Even after this surprise defeat, however, Ramsey continued to be an influential voice in the legislature. He voluntarily retired from the legislature in 1999, and died in 2001.
In 2002, Mars Hill College opened the Ramsey Center for Regional Studies. The Center houses Ramsey's official papers from his years in public office, and is dedicated to preserving the heritage and culture of the people of the Southern Appalachian Mountains. A section of Interstate 26 running between Asheville, North Carolina and Johnson City, Tennessee is also named in his honor.
- "Obituaries: Liston Ramsey". The Sylva Herald. September 1, 2001. Archived from the original on December 1, 2002. Retrieved September 6, 2014.
- Ramsey Center Namesake Dies - Article from the "Western Carolinian"