North Carolina 'trailblazer for women' McCain dies at 91

A decades-long fixture in Democratic politics, Betty McCain was the first woman to chair the state Democratic Party.

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Former NC Democratic Party Chair Betty McCain with former NC Gov. Jim Hunt
Travis Fain
, WRAL state government reporter

Betty McCain, a key member of former Gov. Jim Hunt’s administration and the first woman to chair the North Carolina Democratic Party, died Wednesday. She was 91.

“She was terrific in organizing people and inspiring people,” Hunt told WRAL News. “It was one of my great privileges to work with her.”

McCain’s political career spanned decades. She was chairwoman of the state Democratic Party from 1976 to 1979, according to The Wilson Times, which published a lengthy obituary Wednesday. She was a long-time adviser to Hunt, worked on numerous other political campaigns, headed the Democratic Women of North Carolina, served on the Democratic National Committee for much of the 1970s and 1980s and was a delegate to national party conventions in 1972 and 1988, the newspaper reported.

She was also secretary of the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources during Hunt’s second term. The former governor told The Wilson Times that McCain was his “right hand” for his four terms in office and that he considered her “one of our state’s greatest leaders ever.”

Hunt told WRAL News that McCain traveled North Carolina far and wide, and that she probably knew the state “better than any political leader I have ever known.”

In a Tweet, the state’s current governor, Roy Cooper, called McCain “a trailblazer for women and a powerful force for good in the arts, education and public service.” U.S. Rep. Deborah Ross called her “a force of nature.”

Hunt grew up in Duplin County during the Great Depression, The Wilson Times reported Wednesday. The newspaper said she held honorary doctorates from five different North Carolina universities and served four terms on the UNC Board of Governors, which sets policy for the state’s public university system.

“I love Carolina the way Peter loves the Lord,” McCain once told The Times, which called the saying “a favorite mantra.”

Funeral plans were not set Wednesday afternoon. Joyner’s Funeral Home in Wilson was managing the arrangements.



Travis Fain, Reporter

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