Rep. Fulghum dies after short battle with cancer

Posted July 20, 2014
Updated July 21, 2014

— Rep. Jim Fulghum, R-Wake, died Saturday evening after a short battle with cancer, his family told WRAL News on Sunday. He was 70.

Fulghum was diagnosed with cancer of the stomach and esophagus on June 28, according to his wife, Mary Susan Fulghum. A week later, on July 3, he withdrew from his state Senate campaign.

Family photos: Remembering Jim Fulghum Family photos: Remembering Jim Fulghum

"We had a wonderful life together," said Mary Susan Fulghum. "We had a rich and full life."

The Fulghums met in high school when he was 16 and she was 15. They attended medical school together, married and had two daughters. They recently celebrated their 47th wedding anniversary.

One of their daughters worked in the General Assembly as Fulghum's legislative assistant and said it "was an honor to work with him and to watch him work."

"I think the most important thing he brought downtown was the courage of his convictions. When you have that, I think you have a real desire and ability to hear the other side of things without becoming adversarial," Emily Roberson said Sunday.

"He's always been that way – as a husband, a father and a physician. I was so proud of him for always being willing to invite folks to his office who disagreed with him – that's something we both felt strongly about from the very beginning," Roberson added. "In this political environment, I know his steadiness and his thoughtful approach to any issue was something that I, along with colleagues and constituents, treasured and admired."

Jim Fulghum was a retired neurosurgeon and was first elected to the General Assembly in 2012. He was a major proponent for health measures in the House, including the recently signed measure legalizing the use of hemp oil or CBD to treat intractable seizure disorders.

He also sponsored bills banning the use of tanning beds by teens and requiring schools to carry epinephrine injectors for emergency treatment of life-threatening allergic reactions. 

Just last week, the House and Senate passed his House Bill 644, requiring state regulations to protect medical providers who work with chemotherapeutic agents. That bill was presented to Gov. Pat McCrory on July 16, but as of Friday, it had not yet been signed. 

McCrory released a statement Sunday about Jim Fulghum's passing, saying he was sorry to hear the news.

"As a medical doctor, Jim had a professional and personal passion for helping those in his community and state. Wake County and all of North Carolina lost a great man today," McCrory said.

McCrory ordered flags at all state facilities to be lowered to half-staff on Wednesday.

House Speaker Thom Tillis also released a statement, saying "the residents of Wake County were lucky to have Dr. Fulghum represent them."

"His leadership as a legislator was second only to his compassion and expertise as a doctor serving his constituents and the state of North Carolina," Tillis said. "He was a friend who will be missed by me and our entire chamber, and my deepest sympathies go to his family and friends during this very difficult time."

After one term in the House, Jim Fulghum was running this year to replace Sen. Neal Hunt, R-Wake, who did not seek re-election after five terms in the state Senate.

Jim Fulghum handily won his Republican primary against Apryl Major in May and was due to face off in the November general election against Democrat Tom Bradshaw, a former Raleigh mayor and former state transportation secretary.

Last week, a group of senior Wake County Republicans chose local businessman John M. "Johnny Mac" Alexander Jr. as Jim Fulghum 's replacement to run against Bradshaw.


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  • sisu Jul 22, 2014

    My condolences to his family. He worked hard for the people of North Carolina and it sounds like he was a good all-around person. So sad to lose Senator Nesbitt and now Representative Fulghum so quickly. Good men.

  • kodywoof Jul 21, 2014

    RIP Jim!

  • Bogged Down Jul 21, 2014

    Esophageal cancer is often caused or exacerbated by acid reflux, and it is very common among obese people such as Dr Fulgum. My wife's grandfather died from this type of cancer. If you find yourself taking antacids frequently or you wake up often with a burning sensation in your throat you should SEE YOUR DOCTOR IMMEDIATELY, lose weight, cut down on alcohol consumption, and never eat a big meal before going to sleep.

  • David McIntee Jul 21, 2014
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    I wasn't familiar with the man, but it seems NC sure lost a great civic leader, and his family lost a great husband and father. RIP Dr. Fulghum.

  • floydthebarber Jul 21, 2014

    He might not have advocated for a robust public healthy policy that would help millions (blocking ACA medicaid expansion is unforgivable) but the small steps he took to improve NC healthcare are a positive legacy his family can be proud of. Everyone can agree on EpiPens and medical marijuana for sick children. We should all be striving for more such compromises.

  • Barbara Sossomon Jul 21, 2014
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    Glad his suffering was short. He will be greatly missed. Prayers for family, friends and constituents.

  • 12345_here Jul 21, 2014

    My Condolences to Mr. Fulghum's family and friends. May they find happiness and love in their memories of him.

  • superflames Jul 21, 2014

    Well, it's great to hear about a man of conviction and integrity serving in the state legislature. Given the general tone on this site about our state house and senate, it is refreshing to read all the appreciative and positive statements about this man and his life and work.

    My sympathies to his family and friends in this time.

  • Cabe Merritt Jul 21, 2014
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    Dr. Fulghum was a great man. He saved my life once and I will never forget him.

  • babbleon Jul 21, 2014

    My sympathy to his family.