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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 >>

Sense of responsibility sets in after inauguration

Holshouser remembers the post-inauguration rush: the party, the early morning church service, the speech. Soon, though, a sense of the "awesome responsibility" of the office took hold, as well as the cold reality of a less-sympathetic media.

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

JACK FLEER:
As you were actually taking the oath of office and you were about to assume the responsibilities of the position on inauguration day, do you recall what was in your mind?
JAMES E. HOLSHOUSER, JR.:
Well, we had the inauguration ball the night before and all the Republicans who had come to town just raised hell. The first time a lot of them had ever been to Raleigh for one of those. We got to bed very late and started the day very early. We had an early communion service at the First Presbyterian in Raleigh. Then we had to be over at the mansion ahead of time where the inaugural party gathers and all that. But we had worked almost up the last minute, being my typical procrastinating self, on the inauguration address. I remember getting up and thinking well at least it is not raining or snowing, typical mountain boy I guess. I think because of the very solid courtesies that Bob Scott had shown me since the election that we were being especially cautious to make sure that the outgoing governor was treated with all the honors that he was suppose to get. And when we got over to the inauguration, you know it was sort of like coming to a homecoming in a way when you sat, and you looked out over all these faces that had been working for you over this last year or so and really in a sense longer than that because I had known most of them for several years as state chairman. It is one of those feelings almost like the proverbial wanting to punch yourself to make sure it is real. It was hard to believe it was happening.
JACK FLEER:
Well in two cases, I want you to comment on this. 1) It was the first Republican governor of this century. A truly historic event. And 2) being governor at any time, Republican or Democrat, it is a tremendous responsibility.
JAMES E. HOLSHOUSER, JR.:
Yes and we were scared about that. I told folks that we shouldn't ever think that something had to be done just because that is the way that it had always been done because we were going to have to break some molds. But at the same time our main job we had was to end up in four years with the people in North Carolina being convinced they could turn the reins of state government over to Republicans and not feel shaky about it. For a person who had really grown up and gradually become more and more involved in trying to build a two party system, that was just an extremely awesome responsibility in a way. Because I knew we would make some mistakes and we did just out of inexperience. Some of them just colossal. Fortunately it wasn't the end of the world. We didn't do anything that hurt the state very bad or anything. But I also remember being, having such a good feeling that this had come about while my parents were still alive because they, particularly my dad and a lot of other Republicans of his generation, had lived their whole lives working and trying but never really believing that they were going to see a Republican governor. And it was good that he was there.
JACK FLEER:
What about the impact that assuming this job had on you personally? Was that a thought that came to your mind or was that a distant concern?
JAMES E. HOLSHOUSER, JR.:
Well I remember lying in bed in the Governor's Mansion the first night over there. The way the windows are arranged in the Governor's bedroom up on the second floor of the mansion and shutters and shades and all, usually have some lights from the streets coming in on the ceiling so it is not ever totally dark unless you really work hard at it. And I am lying there looking up and I said, "Well, you have certainly got yourself into now." And there was a sense, there was a part of me that understood the budget which I still think is the Governor's most important tool, that felt pretty good. But there was so much more about the day to day things that I was going to have to face that I knew that I didn't know, that it was sort of scary just plain and simple. I also had figured out that while a lot of the media had bent over backwards, not trying to help us exactly, during the campaign. We were the underdogs and you get a certain amount of advantage from that and as soon as you won that whole attitude change. Now you had to answer all of the questions. So I knew I was going to have to face that too. And that got tougher as the administration went along because of Watergate.
JACK FLEER:
It created an environment of people being suspicious of people in public office. We will get back to that but did you feel that you had made mistake.
JAMES E. HOLSHOUSER, JR.:
No, never felt that and never did during the whole time and would have gone back and done it again if you had asked me at the end of the term. I was glad I didn't have the opportunity to run for re-election because in my particular case because of the kidney problems that would have been a serious mistake.
JACK FLEER:
Right, but never any second thoughts?
JAMES E. HOLSHOUSER, JR.:
No, no. And by having the one-term limitation, it also left you with the sure knowledge that if you could only run again, it would have been unanimous.