Title: Oral History Interview with James E. Holshouser Jr., January 31, 1998. Interview C-0328-1.
Interviewer: Fleer, Jack
Interviewee: Holshouser, James E.
Abstract: When he was elected governor of North Carolina in 1972, James E. Holshouser Jr. was the first Republican chief executive of that state since 1896. He did not spend his young life striving to be a record-setting politician; though he grew up in a civically active family, his political aspirations at Davidson College and the University of North Carolina School of Law did not go beyond membership in the Young Republicans. As a lawyer, however, he felt that he was in a unique position to help his community, a sense that eventually motivated him to seek office when court reform, an issue that interested him, was slated to come before the legislature. In this, the first of four interviews with Holshouser in this collection, Holshouser remembers his early political career as a member of the struggling Republican minority in the state legislature and how that experience—one which demanded consensus-building, compromise, and party organization—helped him win the governorship. In addition to recalling his campaign for governor, Holshouser describes his philosophy as governor, including his sense of obligation to his public; the Republican Party in the 1960s and early 1970s; his thoughts on how money and media have changed politics; and his beliefs about the decline of party discipline. This interview will be useful for students and researchers interested not just in the political story behind a historic governorship, but also the office of governor in North Carolina and the rhythms of state politics.