Raleigh, N.C. — State Sen. Jim Forrester, R-Gaston, passed away Monday. He was 74.
The 11-term senator had suffered from health problems for some time before falling ill over the weekend. He had been on life support since Sunday. Doctors suspect he might have had a stroke.
One of his daughters, Mary Paige, answered the phone at the Forrester home Monday afternoon.
"He died peacefully at approximately noon today," Paige said. "He was taken off of life support shortly after 11. It was very quiet and very peaceful. His entire family was around him."
"He was one of the greatest men who ever lived, not just a great father. He did great things for many people. He will be missed, not just today," she said tearfully. "Today, he’s in heaven, playing golf with his father that he never knew, and he’s surrounded by his family. That’s all he ever wanted."
Funeral arrangements are pending, Paige said.
North Carolina Republican Party Chairman Robin Hayes called Forrester “a dear friend who I respected and admired. He had a long and distinguished career serving the people of North Carolina."
Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said Forrester's life "embodied the American dream," noting that he emigrated from Scotland after World War II, served as a flight surgeon during the Vietnam War and retired from the Air Force as a brigadier general.
"Through the years, he received numerous awards from groups that covered the ideological spectrum recognizing his outstanding legislative work," Berger, R-Rockingham, said in a statement. "I will remember him most for his dedicated and thoughtful service as he worked to make sure his constituents had the chance to fulfill the American Dream.”
House Speaker Thom Tillis called Forrester a dedicated public servant.
"Sen. Jim Forrester was a dear friend and a trusted colleague," Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, said in a statement. "Our state will not be the same without him."
Condolences for Forrester crossed the political aisle.
Democratic Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton, who serves as president of the Senate, said that Forrester served his constituents well.
"He represented Cleveland County before I did in the Senate, and he always worked hard for his constituents," Dalton said in a statement. "Sen. Forrester dedicated his life to public service – in the military, as a physician and as an elected official.”
Senate Minority Leader Martin Nesbitt and Sen. Bill Purcell, D-Scotland, said Forrester's background as a physician helped shape health-related debates in the General Assembly.
"Although we come from different political parties and often had differing opinions, we hold great respect for Jim and called him a friend," Nesbitt and Purcell said in a statement. "We worked with him closely on the Health and Human Services Committee over the years, and as a doctor, he brought a necessary level of expertise to Senate deliberations on health care matters."
Forrester was elected deputy Senate leader this year – a largely ceremonial post – as the GOP controlled the chamber for the first time in more than a century. He earned a legislative victory in September when the General Assembly approved a May statewide constitutional referendum on whether to ban gay marriage in North Carolina.
He also made headlines recently for calling Asheville "a cesspool of sin" and came under scrutiny after allegations that he might have misrepresented himself on his resume. He said the errors were inadvertent.