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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with James E. Holshouser Jr., May 9, 1998. Interview C-0328-3. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Reflecting on the disappointments of his term

Holshouser reflects on disappointments from his term as governor, as well as his efforts to listen to citizens: he regrets the failure of the Mountain Area Management Act, and that Watergate hobbled his party-building hopes for the mid-1970s. Holshouser worries that his efforts to listen to North Carolinians, which may have helped him gauge sentiment on the Mountain Act, eventually declined into carping sessions or efforts to extract favors.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with James E. Holshouser Jr., May 9, 1998. Interview C-0328-3. 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

What do you see, if any, disappointments in your administration?
We didn't get the mountain area management act through. Because of the Watergate timing, we really weren't able to lay the groundwork for immediate competitive challenge by the Republicans for the governorship in 1976. David Flaherty ran a good campaign and is good a guy; but nobody could have won that year. I was disappointed about that. At the same time, you know I have a different perspective after twenty years. It certainly laid the groundwork. When we got past that, North Carolina went to Reagan in 1980 and 1984, we elected Jim Martin in 1984, and elected the Republican legislature in 1994. It has taken time, but we have crossed over barriers and you have to feel good about that. And again, not that I view myself as the builder of the Republican party so much as hopefully the builder of a two party system which is good for the state. And I feel pretty good about the fact that we did some, a second stage, jump start for the community college system with the extra capital dollars that was there and has carried over some practice to keep that energized. We are still ahead of a lot of states although we could do more out there.
So the mountain area management bill would be your major sort of substantive disappointment. Why did that happen?
Lost the Republicans from the mountains. Could not hold the coalition together. Didn't have any from the coast to start with on the coastal bill. We got the Piedmont from both parties. The Republicans from the mountains passed that and the Piedmont people stayed in place on the mountain act. The coastal people weren't going to vote for any more than they did for their own because they were mad. I said mad, they already had a mind set against it and the mountain people just had that populist thing about a man doing what he wanted to with his own land.
A man's home is his castle.
That is right. And I look back. It is hard to know how much overall impact there is on things. We set up because what we called people's days to go around once a month to some place and just listen to people come in, first come first serve. Early on that had some good things but as it went on the last couple of years I say it seemed to be more people wanting their road paved or a son out of prison or wanted you to take out the plate that the FBI put in there and was listening to every thought they had. You had those three categories that seemed to become more and more of the thing. I didn't feel as good about it later on. It was a good ombudsman approach to give people a chance to get heard if they were just getting lost in the system.