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Wife Of Former N.C. Gov. Terry Sanford Dies

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Margaret & Terry Sanford
DURHAM, N.C. — Former North Carolina first lady Margaret Rose Knight Sanford, who also was Terry Sanford's partner as he served as a U.S. senator and president of Duke University, has died at the age of 88.

Sanford, who lived at a retirement community in Durham, died Saturday at Duke University Hospital in Durham, the university announced Monday. She had been hospitalized for about a week, during which her health declined rapidly, said Laurie Sanford, her daughter-in-law.

Duke recalled Sanford as an avid philanthropist and arts patron, serving on several boards, including the Education Commission of the States and N.C. School of the Arts, while her husband served as university president.

"We are all aware of Terry Sanford's many contributions to Duke, the state of North Carolina and the country," Duke President Richard Brodhead said in a news release. "But as the late Duke Provost Thomas Langford said at Sen. Sanford's funeral in 1998, 'To recall Terry is to recall Margaret Rose. You really cannot think of one without the other.'"

The Kentucky native and graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill married Terry Sanford on July 4, 1942. Within months, Sanford left his job as an FBI agent and joined the Army as a paratrooper during World War II.

Sanford was governor from 1961 to 1965, Duke's president from 1970 to 1985 and a U.S. senator from 1987 to 1993. He also made two unsuccessful runs for president, in 1972 and 1976. Sanford was known for his progressive policies on race relations, poverty and education.

Margaret Rose Sanford, a former schoolteacher, didn't have a great interest in politics, but she often was a sounding board for the ambitions that her husband shared, said Marion Ellis, who co-wrote a book about Terry Sanford in 1999.

"She had just a great attitude. She had a great sense of humor," Ellis said from his Charlotte home. "She was just what you call it a perfect governor's wife. She loved entertaining, the more people the better. She was really just an incredibly good soldier."

Survivors include daughter Elizabeth Knight Sanford and son James Terry Sanford Jr.; both of Durham; two grandchildren; and her brother, Col. John Richard Knight of Hopkinsville, Ky.

Sanford's funeral service will be at 1 p.m. Thursday in Duke Chapel, with entombment to follow next to her husband in the chapel's crypt. Visitation is 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Forest at Duke, where she lived in later years.

Memorials may be made to the Terry Sanford Performing Arts Institute, P.O. Box 2810, Durham, N.C., 27715.


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