Local News

Many Supporters in Sanford's Corner

Posted December 27, 1997 12:00 a.m. EST

— As he undergoes evaluation for treatment options, former United States Senator and North Carolina Governor Terry Sanford has many supporters in his corner. Sanford, who has been diagnosed with inoperable esophageal and liver cancer, says that although the medical prognosis is not good, he remains optimistic. Longtime friends and associates are not surprised.

Former president of the UNC system William C. Friday characterizes Sanford as "a fighter. His 'can-do' attitude is what has driven him for decades."

Noting Sanford's lifetime of public service, Friday said, "His whole being is out of that attitude of giving oneself, of serving with compassion, striving to build better schools, more hospitals. He has done it all his life, and he is still doing it."

As he made his diagnosis public, Sanford told reporters, "I go (into the hospital) with complete confidence. I go in there with complete optimism. I go in there with a bright spirit. I think I'll come out all right in the long run. I think I'll beat whatever odds there are, and I think I'll be around here a long time."

Acknowledging that advanced esophageal and liver cancer generally lead to a life measured in months, not years, Sanford's physician, Dr. William Fulkerson, said, "He has faced a lot of long odds before, and he's facing this with the same courage he has before."

While Sanford intends to drop many of his responsibilities, including plans to teach a class at Duke University, where he served as president, he says he will continue efforts on behalf of a performing arts center he wants for the state.

Longtime friend, philanthropist and Duke descendant Mary D.B.T. Semans praised Sanford's ability to excite others about worthy projects. She and he have collaborated on many such ventures over the years, the latest being the arts center.

"His name attached to something means success," she said. "He produces the loyalty and the fascination and the interest that this (arts) center needs."

Sanford, a Laurinburg native, served as governor from 1961-65. He was elected to one term in the U.S. Senate in 1986.

Sanford is considered the father of the state's community college system. The N.C. School of the Arts and Governor's School were also established during his term as governor.

For 16 years, between his terms as governor and U.S. Senator, Sanford served as president of Duke University.

He has written three books about politics and government, as well as one about how to lead healthful life.