Holshouser recalled as statesman
Posted June 17, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — Former Gov. Jim Holshouser, who died early Monday, was hailed by North Carolina politicians as a decent man who bridged partisan divides and worked tirelessly to improve the state.
Holshouser was only 38 when he was elected governor in 1972, becoming the first Republican to lead the state since the 1800s. The Democratic Party controlled the General Assembly at the time, but Holshouser worked with lawmakers to expand public school kindergartens statewide, establish health clinics in rural areas not served by local physicians and expand the state parks system.
“James Holshouser was more than a friend and mentor, he was a genuine leader,” Gov. Pat McCrory said in a statement. “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."
Holshouser helped McCrory transition into the Governor's Office after his victory in last November's election.
"Compassion was the foundation of Gov. Holshouser’s life," McCrory said. "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.”
Former Democratic Gov. Mike Easley said he also sought advice from Holshouser when he was confronted by a major budget shortfall. He said the former governor stayed away from partisan politics.
"He was one of the kindest, nicest, most forthcoming people I've ever met. He never said no to helping North Carolina," Easley said.
Former Gov. Jim Hunt, who served as Holshouser’s lieutenant governor, remembered him as a man who always answered the call. He said his former boss was a champion of education who pushed to increase teacher pay and worked with Democrats to include kindergarten in the public school system.
“Some people are builders,” Hunt said. “They build the state, they build the people, they build the schools, they build the economy.”
He said Holshouser fought for what was right, especially when he saw something wrong.
“That’s the best kind of political leadership, and he was the best kind of political leader,” Hunt said.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan and Republican North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis praised his ability to cross the aisle and build bipartisan consensus.
"Jim was such a good man, and I’ve long admired his ability to work with Democrats and Republicans. His moderate, consensus-building approach made him an effective leader," Hagan said in a statement.
"Gov. Holshouser was an expert at building relationships with people of all backgrounds and political persuasions," Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, said in a statement. "His success was directly linked to his kind and decent demeanor and the manner in which he defined statesmanship. Even as his health failed him in later years, his service to North Carolina never stopped.”
U.S. Sen. Richard Burr called Holshouser "one of the true statesmen of our time."
"Gov. Holshouser was one of the kindest and most sincere people to ever become involved in North Carolina politics. Staying true to his mountain roots, Jim would always shoot you straight and stay true to his word," Burr said in a statement.
Sixth District Congressman Howard Coble recalled working as Holshouser's revenue secretary in the 1970s.
"He was an outstanding chief executive who empowered his cabinet to execute the vision he had for North Carolina," Coble said in a statement. "He was not only smart and effective as a leader, but he was a caring and kind individual who could relate to people from all walks of life."
State Senate leader Phil Berger said Holshouser "made an indelible mark" on North Carolina history by helping build the Republican Party in the state. The GOP now controls the General Assembly.
"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," Berger, R-Rockingham, said in a statement.
During Holshouser's tenure, the the 16-campus University of North Carolina system was created, and he later served on the Board of Governors that oversees the system.
"On any issue of long-term importance to the university or higher education in this state, his counsel was sought out and highly valued," UNC President Tom Ross said in a statement. "He was seen as the elder statesman of the Board of Governors, one with a gift for simply but eloquently getting to the heart of a complicated issue, bringing together diverse points of view and guiding his colleagues to consensus or resolution."