Local News

Morgan Makes History On First Day As House Co-Speaker

Posted February 6, 2003 8:00 a.m. EST

— History was made Thursday when a Republican presided over the North Carolina House for the first time since 1998. It was all part of a power-sharing agreement reached by the evenly split chamber.

Richard Morgan of Moore County spent his first day as co-speaker of the House. Among his duties was the swearing-in of Denise Weeks to a new term as House principal clerk.

Morgan and Jim Black from Mecklenburg County were elected co-speakers as an evenly divided house was forced to share power. Morgan's acceptance speech focused on both Democrats and Republicans burying the hatchet.

Morgan's acceptance speech focused on both Democrats and Republicans burying the hatchet.

"The people of North Carolina are watching," Morgan said, "and they are expecting all of us Republicans and Democrats to stop our political bickering and to do the work of the people"

Black echoed Morgan's sentiment.

"We haven't looked good to the voters and citizens of our state in the last few years," Black said. "So it's time to improve our image, do what we think is the right thing, and they'll be at peace with what we've done at the end of the session"

Until late Wednesday, Morgan wasn't considered a contender for House speaker. He had only four other backers for his bid.

Wednesday, while other coalitons for power-sharing failed, Morgan quietly built his support among Democrats.

"What I'm doing," Morgan said, "is trying to have a Republican to vote for in a co-speaker arrangement with Jim Black."

It's ironic that the Morgan-Black co-speakership did not have the support of the majority of Republicans. Throughout his legislative career, Morgan is known for some head-turning lawmaking.

When a coalition of Moore County commissioners feared that a local option sales tax would be voted in by a lame-duck commission, they came to see Morgan.

Morgan steered a law through the Legislature that required a majority vote on business considered by the Moore County commissioners - effectively keeping the commission from considering a tax increase until after their terms expired.

Morgan was a key player when Republicans had control of the house in the 1990s. As chairman of the House Rules Committee, Morgan quickly gained a reputation, as New Hanover County Rep. Thomas Wright recalled.

"He was tough," Wright said. "But rules chairmen are, and it was a very difficult time and very difficult for many African-American lawmakers. I'm not embarrassed to say that at all."