Ex-Gov. Martin donates tuba, Rubik's cube to state

Former Gov. Jim Martin donated several mementos to the state Museum of History on Monday, including a tuba and a Rubik's cube.

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Govs McCrory and Martin
Laura Leslie
RALEIGH, N.C. — Former Gov. Jim Martin donated several mementos to the North Carolina Museum of History on Monday, including a tuba, a harmonica and a Rubik's cube.

Martin, a Republican, was elected to two terms as governor in 1984 and 1988.

The list of donated items also included a Bible, a book on the Executive Mansion, a Spanish coin, a clock that stood on his desk during his tenure, a set of golf clubs and his Ph.D. robe from Davidson College. 

A chemistry professor by profession, Martin was well-known for using a Rubik's cube as a prop on the campaign trail, where he would scramble and then solve the 1980s puzzle while talking to supporters, driving home the message that he could "fix" the state's problems. 

On Monday, Martin admitted there was more to the Rubik's cube trick than met the eye. He said he would scramble the cube "in a precise pattern" so that he could be sure of being able to solve it quickly by following a few simple steps. 

"People would think I was a magician," he joked. "It was pretty effective on the campaign trail." 

Martin is also an avid tuba player who even played for the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra for several years in the 1960s.

Donating the tuba, however, proved to be a bit complicated, because Martin doesn't actually own it.  He said he had been borrowing the well-worn instrument from the Salvation Army since the 1990s. 

"They're willing to donate it provided I buy them a new one," he said. 

Martin also gave the museum his Scottish Rite cap with the insignia of the Knight of the Grand Cross, a rarefied rank in the Masons, as well as his old harmonica, which he said he often played in the Executive Mansion. 

"They wouldn't let me play it outside," he joked. 

Secretary of Cultural Resources Susan Kluttz accepted the donated memorabilia on the state's behalf, with Gov. Pat McCrory on hand to thank Martin as well. 

McCrory says he "constantly" seeks Martin's advice as a mentor. "He's a true role model of what you'd call a public servant," he said. 

The governor also praised Martin's wife, former first lady Dottie Martin, who started the state's highway wildflower program and worked to get furnishings for the governor's mansion donated after legislators refused to provide needed funding to refurbish the 100-year-old house. 

McCrory, who has faced his own funding battles over the historic house, smiled and nodded his head when Jim Martin asked him whether the drapes donated 30 years ago were still hanging in the mansion.

"Well, we might need to talk about that," Martin said to laughter from the crowd.

Martin's mementos will join the museum's collection of governors' memorabilia, which includes Gov. Gregg Cherry's gas mask, Gov. Zebulon Vance's military sword, and Gov. David Swain's quilt. 


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