Frustration with lawmaking process as a motivator
Holshouser explains how his indignation with how the law was made—"sloppily and crazily"—kept him involved in the process even as Republicans struggled to be noticed. His law degree gave him a degree of expertise, and his work ethic helped as well. He remembers the hard work he put in on the restructuring of the University of North Carolina, a project he remembers as one of his most significant accomplishments as a legislator.
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with James E. Holshouser Jr., January 31, 1998. Interview C-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
- JACK FLEER:
Some of your experiences, you are suggesting that Republicans had
difficulty getting legislation passed. There wasn't much of a
critical mass to get much done. You didn't get much notice.
Could have turned you off about participation in the legislature?
- JAMES E. HOLSHOUSER, JR.:
Some of the things that I had said earlier sort of kept me coming back
just out of sense of not quite moral outrage, but just sense of
indignation. At the same time I found that both in committee and on the
floor there were times when amendments got accepted simply because what
I was saying made some sense and you knew how to write it down in such a
way that it fits as opposed to having an idea but not being able to
quite get it into focus. Just the advantage of being a lawyer as much as
anything. I think being a lawyer in the legislature gives you a clear
advantage in that you are dealing with general statures that are the
nature of your business. And when I think about it in those terms I have
to say, I have to agree at times with those that say watching how the
general statutes are created is sort of like watching hot dogs. It is
not so pretty sometimes and you lose a certain amount of respect for the
general statutes that you had when you came out of law school that this
is the law because you see how sloppily and crazily sometimes these
things get done. But it is not for lack of effort. Most of the times it
is just because things get overlooked sometimes in the speed of things.
But I did find that there were things that I could get done. I always
went home with the sense of accomplishment even though I was frustrated
with things that I didn't get done. And in the 1971 session
by that time I had gotten to know all of the senior people real well.
Even if I was Republican and even though they disagreed with me on
things in the past, I think I reached a certain level of respect. And at
least recognition that I knew what I was doing sometimes. I think I
probably drew the 1971 redistricting plan for Congress. Simply because I
had played around with all the numbers and drawn the lines on 100 maps
and came up with one that was going to protect the key Democrats in such
a way that you could get all their house people supporting that. And I
showed it to one of the Democrat legislators on our house committee. We
were both on it. He took it and introduced it as
his own the next morning. It passed out of the committee that day over
the objection of the chairman who was trying to help Nick Galiafinakis
keep his seat. It went to the floor and passed the next day. And I think
overall that probably in terms of personal accomplishment that I knew
was my product, that was probably one of the key things. But the thing
that I remember most about all four experiences in the legislature was
the higher education restructuring in 1971. I had had people encourage
me since the 1969 session when we fought back and forth on the Scott
tobacco tax. I had gone on statewide television and around the state and
all who had been encouraging me to think about running statewide. In
1971 when the higher education restructuring came along I got very
involved early on. I went down to see Jimmy Carter in Georgia about how
they had done theirs. He was governor of Georgia then. Talked to Cotton
Robinson who was the operating person for their university system.
Actually I talked to Carter more about the restructuring of state
government, reorganization of state government, now that I think back
about that when I went to see him about higher education. But Cotton
Robinson was down there, Jay Robinson's brother, later
Chancellor of Western Carolina. I asked him if he would be willing to
come up and speak to our legislative committee about how it was done in
Georgia. Bill Friday had encouraged me to call him and bring him in as a
resource. If you look back at the books that have been written about
that session, Bill Friday was using a lot of different people and
playing a lot of different cards. I am sure I was just one of them. I
think that Cotton's coming started the movement away from the
essentials of the Warren Commission plan towards what was eventually
adopted which was having a board of governors which is the governing
board as oppose to the older higher education type coordinating board.
And I think it just made all the difference. You remember we had a
special session in the fall to finish dealing with
that. And I was over an hour late for the first kickoff campaign for
governor up in High Point. Bo Calloway was coming in to speak, but we
weren't finished with that Friday night thing in the
legislature. The whole thing just ended up in near chaos over at the
furniture market in High Point waiting on me to get there. I mean it was
in a matter of one day you would have the regional universities mad with
you and the next day you had the consolidated university mad with you.
Partly because they were changing positions along the way. But if you
kept right down the line saying this needs to be a governing board and
you started off with some kind of balance of representation on it with
the two groups, that is what made sense. I still think personally to the
extent that I made a contribution there that may have been the most
important contribution that I made to the state.
- JACK FLEER:
Keeping that on the road to the Board of Governors?
- JAMES E. HOLSHOUSER, JR.:
Yes, as oppose to anything that I did when I was governor.