Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with James B. Hunt, October 3, 2001. Interview C-0332. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Personal impact of running for governor.

Hunt reveals the tremendous personal, physical, and emotional toll of running for governor.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with James B. Hunt, October 3, 2001. Interview C-0332. 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:
Being governor has a lot of personal consequences for you as an individual and for your family. I like to think that governors are people too. Could you talk about what the personal impact of having been governor is for you as an individual and for your family?
JAMES B. HUNT:
Well, let me start by saying that you have some marvelous opportunities to do things and go places and meet people and learn and have your eyes opened to the world and lessons. Your family shares in that. But you lose a lot of your privacy. You can't spend as much time with your wife and children as you ought to if you do it the way I did it. You obviously give up your income potential for the period of time that is. [unclear] You don't, you just don't get to do a lot of things as much as you'd like to them, go fishing with the grandchildren as much, that sort of thing. It can be wearing to your health. But you run because you believe in creating a better society and world and you care about people and want them to have a chance to be the best they can be, want North Carolina to be the best it can be, the leading state. You just are fortunate to have a chance to participate.
JACK FLEER:
Is being governor a lonely position?
JAMES B. HUNT:
Oh yeah. In many ways it sure is.
JACK FLEER:
Can you talk about that?
JAMES B. HUNT:
Well, you have a very heavy responsibility on your shoulders. You can have help. You should have help. You need to have good people but hard to get them, can't pay them much. Succession, that's a little better. You have to make a lot of tough decisions, and you may be wrong, but you have to go ahead and do it. You have to in the final analysis you get all the help in the world you want, all the advice and listen to other people, but sometimes you can't find the answer anywhere but inside yourself. Sometimes you, especially on some of the big things, you have to draw [on] all of your life's experiences. I had to do that in creating the approaches to education that we did. Who would've ever thought that this state would have the best early childhood approach in America, that this state would raise standards for teachers and teacher pay to what it's going to be, right at the national average. This state would be the talk of America in terms of how successful, how scores have gone up. What when you get to those capital punishment decisions, have you done everything you could and are you making the right decision? My gosh. You've got a life depending on it. So I don't know what more to say about it except that you have to figure out, but that's one of the nice things about getting a mandate from the electorate. At least you've got your agenda set, and if you've gotten it legitimately, then you have to figure out how to carry it through. A lot of times it's terrible opposition to what you're trying to do. It may come from another party, another special interest group. It may come from your own party. Sometimes you get let down by people you appoint, and you have to make changes. I had to let some of my top cabinet people go at times. We've talked about some of this before. People I loved and respected and appreciated, but I just had to do it for the best interests of the people of the state so we could move on.