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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 >>

Personal pressures of the governorship

Holshouser describes the strain politics places on a politician's marriage. The job "just goes on and on and on," but couples can manage by focusing on the end of an officeholder's tenure, perhaps easier for North Carolina's term-limited governor than for others, and there are strategies for managing the workload. He remembers that one-time Secretary of Agriculture Lauch Faircloth did not seem as pressed for time as Holshouser.

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

You mentioned it was the demands on the time. Were there other aspects of it that made it difficult?
JAMES E. HOLSHOUSER, JR.:
Well, you really don't have a personal life during that stretch of time and I think that is one of those things that I may have said before. I learned during the campaign that I could push myself beyond the limits that I thought I could go once as long as I knew that it was going to end. That it was a short-term thing. You could see the light at the end of the tunnel whether it was a train or whatever. That win or lose on election day that pace was going to stop and I think that is how we both felt about the four years. That we had to give our best for four solid years because you couldn't run for reelection. You didn't have to worry about that. We were both figuring on going back to Boone. Turned out we didn't. I believe that is what makes that manageable. I think the lack of that is what makes so many marriages go bad in Congress because that just goes on and on and on. I think there are a lot of marriages that would survive had they not had that strain on them in Congress. A lot of marriages have survived but it is because somewhere a long the line I think the couples make a pact that this is something that they are going to agree to do forever.
JACK FLEER:
You in a sense were on call for twenty four hours as governor.
JAMES E. HOLSHOUSER, JR.:
That is right.
JACK FLEER:
and in a sense your wife and probably not your daughter since she was so young. Is there anything that can be done about that to make being governor somewhat more possible?
JAMES E. HOLSHOUSER, JR.:
I don't think so. I mean you don't have but one guy who is head of the national guard, head of the highway patrol, so to speak, if something is to happen. That is the reason that it never bothered me much about taking a state plane or the highway patrol wherever I was going even if it was for a political event. You can't do that anymore I don't think because people fuss at you. But they didn't fuss then. Jim Martin over did it. He said if there were any politics involved in any part of the trip, the campaign fund had to apy for all of it. Where I didn't even stop at the other extreme of saying that if any part of it was government then government could pay for it. No part of it was government I still had to pay for it and I still don't think that was wrong. But I know I would get some disagreement on that today.
JACK FLEER:
So the job just has this sort of full time expectations and necessity.
JAMES E. HOLSHOUSER, JR.:
That is right. There are things that you can do. There are times you would have appointments in the afternoons. Somebody would call in and say they had gotten tied up. All of sudden your afternoon opens up and you say lets run down to Pinehurst and play eighteen holes. And there was always something on the desk; the desk was never empty. But you do have the flexibility to get up and do that. And there is nothing says that you have to go to the office at all. It is not in the constitution. Lauch Faircloth when he was secretary of transportation swore you could do the job working three days a week.
JACK FLEER:
I didn't realize that. His job or the governor's?
JAMES E. HOLSHOUSER, JR.:
I said transportation. It was when he was in commerce he said that, that the secretary's job only took three days a week. And of course Lauch had been sort of a unique kind of individual all the time any way because he is always, he sort of knew what he could do and what he couldn't do and he just did it.
JACK FLEER:
Would the addition of staff to the governor's office help in making it a more manageable responsibility?
JAMES E. HOLSHOUSER, JR.:
I'm probably speaking out of ignorance now. It is hard to know how much is coming into the Governor's office that has to get into a funnel somehow and then come back out at the other end. When I was there, Phil Kirk had all the mail sit on his desk that came in there everyday. Some of it just needed an automatic response that worked out to a mail processing thing, word processing. Some had to be sent over to a cabinet secretary. He would just sort it out. Then eventually some of it would have to have a letter from me back that he would draft. Most of the time we would just talk through and I didn't even sign it. I had a couple of gals who were good forgers. You know the White House has always had machines. We never signed, I mean I always signed executive orders and things like that. I don't believe more staff is the answer. I think more staff has more potential for games for people to play and other people's agenda to get involved. You have more pull and tug between personalities. I think you need to keep that staff pretty lean and mean. Now the budget office has been added to that staff which makes it look a lot bigger than it is right now as opposed to what it was. That could have been a mistake rather than having it in the Department of Administration.
JACK FLEER:
Moving it over to the Governor's office?
JAMES E. HOLSHOUSER, JR.:
Yes. The Department of Administration always had the reputation of being sort of professional and insulated from politics. When they moved it to the governor's office I think it became the governor's tool in the minds of the legislature and made it, not less effective is the wrong word, it just changed how people perceived it.