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Graham's Passing Marks End Of Old-Time Political Era

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Jim Graham: From Farmers' Market To 'Sodfather'
RALEIGH, N.C. — Politics has changed drastically since Jim Graham first belted out his trademark "donkey bray" at Democratic events.

Today, big money and well-crafted television ads dictate most campaigns.

A political era passed with Graham, the former agriculture commissioner

who died Thursday at age 82.

When Graham became agriculture commissioner in 1964, about four and a half million people lived in North Carolina. Some felt he knew every one of them.

"Knew their families," said political consultant Brad Crone, "knew their cousins, knew the history of them, the business of them.

"You don't see politicians like that today."

Crone worked as Graham's assistant and later his political consultant.

"Jim Graham's network was built in the car," Crone said, "out meeting and talking with farmers."

North Carolina's population nearly has doubled since the heyday of old-time politicians like Sam Ervin, Thad Eure, and Graham. Today's elected leaders have to raise far more campaign money. They must be poltically correct and TV savvy.

"He (Graham) mumbled so much," Crone said. "So for him to be effective on television would be very difficult."

Former Gov. Jim Hunt served with Graham for 16 years. He, too, said Graham "wasn't too good with the television.

"You know he couldn't do the 30-second ad too well," Hunt said. "But, boy, he knew the people. He'd stand up, you know, this great big bear, and he'd talk in his country language."

Graham spoke his mind because he never had to worry about getting re-elected. Agriculture was at its peak.

It was a different time.

"The time was right for him, and he was right for the time," Crone said. "He was a good 'ol boy, but that's what North Carolina was."

Said Hunt: "He was the real thing.

"The real North Carolina, and we may not ever see another one like him."

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