New Bern, N.C. — State Rep. William Wainwright, who served in the Legislature for more than 20 years and was a close political ally of Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue, died Tuesday at age 64, his caretaker said.
Wainwright, of Craven County, died just before 6 p.m. at Carolina East Medical Center in New Bern, according to the caretaker, Sheila Godette. Wainwright had medical issues arise in the past two or three months, including heart problems, Godette said, adding that he was taken to the hospital early Monday morning.
Wainwright, a presiding elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Zion church, first joined the Legislature in 1991 and was elected House speaker pro tempore in 2007. He served in the post for four years and often fought for the legislative agenda of Perdue, who is also from Craven County.
Wainwright, a former House Finance Committee chairman, became deputy minority leader when Republicans took over the House in 2011. He was Speaker Pro Tem for four years under former Speaker of the House and House Minority Leader Joe Hackney.
Wainwright "conducted his business at the General Assembly with as much passion as anyone I encountered during my time in office," said Hackney, D-Orange. "He was a talented negotiator motivated only by what was best for the people of his district."
Hackney added that he would miss his longtime friend.
Current Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, called Wainwright a "dedicated public servant who was known for his deeply-held faith and the passion he brought to every aspect of his life. He was respected by members on both sides of the aisle, and the halls of the General Assembly will not be the same without him."
Godette said Wainwright had five children. A New Bern funeral home was handling his arrangements.
Wainwright's death means Democrats in his House district will choose a replacement candidate for him in the November election. It's unclear if the Democrats would choose someone to serve out his term through the end of the year. Barring a veto override session, lawmakers aren't expected to reconvene again in 2012.