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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with James E. Holshouser Jr., March 13, 1998. Interview C-0328-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Challenges and demands of the governorship

Holshouser describes some of the frustrations and challenges of his governorship. He remembers prison officials pestering him to allow them to make more license plates than the state needed, friends and political allies wanting roads paved, and people playing politics with public education.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with James E. Holshouser Jr., March 13, 1998. Interview C-0328-2. 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

You said that you felt and experienced some frustration. Was that frustration primarily related to the decision making process or were there frustrations about particular projects or policies that you felt should be?
Some of them miniscule. Just for example, I thought it was ridiculous to make new license plates every year and we got that changed. Now everybody gets them every five years or whatever. You just put these little paper sticky things on in the middle. The prison officials used to come over and argue that they needed something to keep the prisoners busy and there is some logic in that. But overall in terms of cost it didn't make sense. But you also had the fact that I had an awful lot of friends that lived on dirt roads that were either muddy or dusty all the time just because they were Republicans and I just knew that was morally wrong. And I could also see that the mountain counties were getting short changed on roads because of the state approach that said we give everybody a pro rata share of dollars based on pave roads. They cost so much more to build in the mountains and so what you ought have done was allocate it on paved mileage. Pave so many miles as a pro rata part. That kind of thing. I was also very concerned that we had a brand new university system that had just been created. It really needed somebody to stand behind it all the way. I had been through all the wars in the '60s over higher education. It was really frustrating that we keep playing these games with it. Having grown up with Appalachian in our home town you couldn't help but have that as one of the things that was at the top of your list of things to be interested in. I guess I would have been interested in that if I had been in Wilkes or Davidson county, I just don't know but I just know I was. And I knew I would be a good advocate in helping to make sure that people didn't start trying to tear the system apart or do end runs right off the bat.
And that had been a very big issue in the most recent legislature or so.
That is right.
Any other sort of policy concerns that you had that you might of said, "Well, I could do something about that if I was governor?"
Well, I was convinced going back to roads that we needed a planning process that said to the public in writing here is what we are going to do in the next ten years, whatever. We have got to plan for some many years. Still in politics it takes seven to ten years to get a road built from the time you say it is needed just because of all the environmental impact studies and acquisitions of right of ways and all of that. But at the time I went in I think we had a highway program that supposedly had something like nine times as many programs as we could build in the next fifty years or something. Everybody was being promised a road and you had just example after example. One of the most notable which is Highway 64 east of Raleigh that went out to Wendell and drove up to the top of the bridge and stopped. And so about a 100 yards short of that bridge it cut off and went through Wendell through the countryside. That thing had been sitting there over ten years without anybody finishing it. Somebody had gotten it started thinking somebody else would have the good sense to come along and finish it. And you would find projects that had been started by one administration just put on the shelf when the next administration came in and just gathered dust. And we got in place a policy that I hoped would stick. I have the feeling right now that that is not holding. I think we are slipping back into some of the same problems that we had in the '50s and '60s.