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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with James B. Hunt, May 18, 2001. Interview C-0329. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Future Farmers of America represented a new young progressive group in favor of the Sanford campaign

The Future Farmers of America was a training ground for future politicians at North Carolina State University, which forged a progressive cohort of young students. Terry Sanford's amenable view toward farmers and his focus on education won Hunt's allegiance, along with other young college students. Sanford's appeal helped usher in a new guard of politicians who utilized the youth vote.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with James B. Hunt, May 18, 2001. Interview C-0329. 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:
You went on to North Carolina State University. It is said about your class at North Carolina State that it might have been one of the most talented, ambitious classes in the history of North Carolina State. There are a number of people in that group, and I don't know whether it was just your class or people during that period of time. Can you talk about that group of people that you associated with?
JAMES B. HUNT:
Well, they weren't all in the same class.
JACK FLEER:
No.
JAMES B. HUNT:
But we were within a couple of classes of each other. There was me, Tom Gilmore in my class, Eddie Knox and Phil Carlton in the class right after us. We were all together in student government. The truth is the people that had come along in the FFA many of whom had sort of been my proteges were the, became student government officers. In fact I think Norris Tolson—. I think we had six student body presidents in a row that had been active in FFA. Many of which had been state presidents in FFA like I was. So there was a, I think that was partly because farm boys at that time were more—. Some of us were more politically aware, had been touched more by politics and farm programs and efforts to provide opportunities in rural North Carolina, had had more opportunities, the FFA, 4-H too, but FFA, the finest youth leadership organization in America, was, still is I expect. Nowhere else would you learn public speaking and parliamentary procedure and have a chance to really practice it and become skilled at it in the way that we did. That was an exceptional group of people that were at NC State at that time. Many of us, all of us that I just mentioned became very active in the Young Democrats and then got involved in political campaigns later on. I worked actively for Terry Sanford. I guess all those guys did, but six years, four years later Eddie Knox was over there working for Dan K. Moore. Whereas Gilmore and Phil Carlton and I worked actively for Richardson Preyer. We worked generally together through our political times until Eddie split off from me later on.
JACK FLEER:
Yes, I read about that. Back to when you were at North Carolina State, other than that group of close friends many of whom had been in the FFA were there other developments or influences that came to bear on your political thinking and your interest in politics that you could mention?
JAMES B. HUNT:
Yeah. Yeah. Well, I would say in my political science courses, particularly those I took under Abe Holtzman, I began to see the difference in the parties. Remember these are the days when the conservative party was dominated by the old guard, the Taft element. By the way some of the Tafts are good now. I've got a good friend named Taft in Ohio who I guess is Robert Taft's son, grandson. So I became, I began to be sensitized to or became sensitized to political issues generally. But I continued to follow the farm economy and the farm programs. I was especially outraged at the policies, the Republican policies under the Ezra Taft Bensons and those people who tried to tear down the farm programs that had helped us to have prosperity on the farms. By the way we haven't had any since then hardly. I took a course in college in—what's it called—something about Stuart, no what was his name the guy that taught that course. But it was a course in agriculture history about the ways of rack and ruin in the agricultural economy throughout our history. Where people would overproduce and prices would fall to disastrous levels, and it just happened over and over and over again throughout, no stability, no profit in it over time. Then of course I became very interested in education. More and more aware of what I had lacked in my own education. I was getting an undergraduate degree in education did my practice teaching out here at Cary.
JACK FLEER:
What was this, agricultural education?
JAMES B. HUNT:
Agricultural education, yes. And became more and more aware of how badly we were doing in our public schools and how unfair it was and how counterproductive it was for our economy. So when Terry Sanford came along, I was ready for him. North Carolina was ready for him. I was ready for him. I threw myself into his campaign wholeheartedly.
JACK FLEER:
Now you had been a student government leader also at North Carolina State. I think you had been student body president on two occasions.
JAMES B. HUNT:
Right. Right. Right.
JACK FLEER:
Was this group that you were associated with and Abe Holtzman and these people like Phil Carlton, Tom Gilmore and Norris Tolson and others were these people beginning to develop an idea that they could make a difference in North Carolina politically?
JAMES B. HUNT:
I don't think we saw ourselves as running for office at that time. I think we saw ourselves as being a part of a team that was making a difference then and could make a difference in the future. My guess is the first time we ever signed up in a campaign was in the campaign of 1960.
JACK FLEER:
The Sanford campaign.
JAMES B. HUNT:
Yeah.
JACK FLEER:
All of them were in that group.
JAMES B. HUNT:
Yeah.
JACK FLEER:
No division at that time.
JAMES B. HUNT:
Yeah. Exactly right. Not much since.
JACK FLEER:
And not much since. Yes, I understand that.
JAMES B. HUNT:
There were others. You've got David Weinstein down here who managed, co-managed my campaign for student government president. And a number of others, if I had time I could go back and think of some others. But anyhow we weren't thinking about running for office, but we wanted to make a difference, and we were activists by nature, and we had some leadership skills. So I guess we were kind of coming along and getting ready even though we didn't know what we were getting ready for.
JACK FLEER:
But you were ready you said for Terry Sanford.
JAMES B. HUNT:
Right.
JACK FLEER:
What was it about the Terry Sanford campaign and candidacy that appealed to you?
JAMES B. HUNT:
Well, he was a continuation of the Kerr Scott tradition of standing up for the average man and being for jobs and opportunities, a general progressive image and being willing to fight the old guard. That's what we called it, the old guard. That's what I couldn't think of a while ago. Second and most important, he was for education. The way he was going to change the state was to change the schools and give us a far better education. Third, he was a young vigorous charismatic figure, political figure that young people, modern kind of people I think could identify with and feel strongly about and want to be involved in helping be a part of the team.
JACK FLEER:
What did you do in that campaign?
JAMES B. HUNT:
In that campaign I was chairman of the Young Voters for Terry Sanford, Young College Voters for Terry Sanford, I guess. I'm not sure of the name we used. It was my job to organize the college campuses for Terry Sanford. I recruited a number of people, two that I can mention to you. One was Bill Wichard, now former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, before that a state senator, before that member of the house and now dean of the law school at Campbell University. He and one of his colleagues led the Terry Sanford campaign at Chapel Hill. I went to the campus and recruited them. I went to East Carolina and recruited the student government president, Glenn Jernigan, former state senator and others around the state. So I was working for Terry; we were working for the schools. We were excited about a new wave, a new generation of leaders. I guess John Kennedy called them a new generation of Americans. But we were also developing a lot of new leaders. This was the first time colleges had been organized for a political candidate. I was getting to do it.