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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Terry Sanford, May 14, 1976. Interview A-0328-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Sanford assesses the leadership of his successors

Despite the lack of succession and veto, Sanford argues that the governorship had broad powers. He evaluates the leadership of his successors as inefficient and ineffective.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Terry Sanford, May 14, 1976. Interview A-0328-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

TERRY SANFORD:
I already had my opinion that the people of this state would follow the governor anytime he took them off in the right direction. That's the tragedy of wasting four years with Holshauser with the rather inadequate leadership of Scott. Not bad again, but not really up to the capacity of what he could have done. And the same of Moore. All of those governors were good governors. I don't hold Holshauser to be a bad governor, but none of them used the resources of that office as they could have used them.
BRENT GLASS:
That's interesting to hear you say that because the common impression of the North Carolina governship is one of a sort of transient kind of power.
TERRY SANFORD:
Well, they say it's a weak governorship for three reasons, and one of them's valid, and the other two don't amount to anything. He doesn't have the veto. Well, I never needed it but once, and that was when the Legislature during the closing days had passed the speaker ban bill with totally illegal procedures. They passed it with suspension of rules, with people yelling on the floor that they weren't agreeing to the suspension of rules. I needed the veto then because that was an emotional reaction that ought to have been calmly set aside and then there would have been no problem. But I never needed it otherwise. I might have used it on occasion, but I never really needed it. So that's not so. The other is that he can't succeed himself. That is valid. It's not that he's weakened in the last two years; I found myself just as strong in the second session, if not stronger, than in the first session. By that time, I knew all these people much better, I was communicating with them much better. I never had any problems as a lame duck. I was going strong. The only problem I had was electing my successor. The governor's appointive power at that time was tremendous and still is fairly good. This reorganization which I suggest is a very bad thing. As it turned out, it took so much of the citizen participation out. But you had hundreds and hundreds of citizens who you were appointing to non-paid tasks eagerly sought after. To be on the Board of Conservation and Development, to be on the Highway Commission was a tremendous honor. The Ports Authority was built by volunteer citizens. That gave the governor a tremendous amount of clout. In addition, he is the director of the budget, which means that he can absolutely shut off East Carolina if he'd wanted to. Leo Jenkins not only never gave me any trouble like he gave subsequent governors; he was a great supporter of mine. First, I think he and I were philosophically in tune. Second, he knew I knew the power of the governor's office. He probably pretty as tutely determined that Governor Moore didn't. He never attempted to take what later turned out to be unwarranted ambitions, it would seem to me, though I don't mean this to be critical of him. I mean to illustrate the power of the governor if he wants to use it. So the governor of North Carolina, as long as it was a Democratic governor anyhow, was expected to be the legislative leader. Now, I'm not sure that's so in any other state that I could pinpoint. The legislature wanted the governor to lead. That didn't mean they'd vote with him, but they wanted him to lead. They wanted him to come with the program. They wanted him to say how he stood on something. A great many legislators would vote for it just because the governor wanted it. They felt that was the best way to go. Furthermore, the governor had tremendous influence on those people if he used it right, and I don't mean improper influence. But they all want something, and not for themselves, but they have the pressures on them to do the favors that are perfectly legitimate, just a kind of personal relationship. The same kind of relationship that I have with the alumni of this institution. I'm not doing anything unwarranted if I give special attention to an alumnus. Well, if a legislator is representing his county and feels very strongly that the Bethel Church ought to have its road to the graveyard paved, the governor's the only one that can do that easily; at least, if the governor wants to do it he can do it.
BRENT GLASS:
Does that build up a kind of loyalty?
TERRY SANFORD:
Well, it's a sense of team. You know, it's good to be on the governor's team if there's a good governor.
BRENT GLASS:
You can't please everybody, but obviously you've got to make some . . .
TERRY SANFORD:
Well, you sure can please most of them, you know, without doing any damage to the system. In fact, I think that kind of team play and the party leadership, I think that's one of Hodges' problems. He had a difficult time in treating the legislature and the party people as his co-workers. I think we got a lot of things in this state that never would have been done if we hadn't developed that kind of relationship. I've never thought the executive ought to cast himself in the role of the opponent of the legislature because it's not necessary.
BRENT GLASS:
You said there were three things that were considered limitations. Let's make sure we covered those. One was the . . .
TERRY SANFORD:
Yes, what was the third? (laughter)
BRENT GLASS:
After the veto power, the second was not being able to succeed yourself, and the third thing, I don't know if we went into that or not.
TERRY SANFORD:
The fact that the Council of State is elected independently. Thus the Governor doesn't have much to do directly with agriculture, insurance, labor or the Superintendent of Public Instruction.