Title: Oral History Interview with James E. Holshouser Jr., March 13, 1998. Interview C-0328-2.
Interviewer: Fleer, Jack
Interviewee: Holshouser, James E.
Abstract: Elected to the governorship of North Carolina in 1972, James E. Holshouser Jr. was the first Republican chief executive of that state since 1896. In this interview, he remembers his service to the state, from his early days administering a budget surplus to his involvement in the partisan battles over major state issues. The biggest political challenge Holshouser faced was his effort to shore up the strength of the executive branch against incursions from the legislature. Even as he sought to secure executive power, he applied his managerial mentality, a belief in consensus-building honed during his time as a member of the minority party in the state legislature, to tangled issues like road-building and the reorganization of the University of North Carolina system. Holshouser describes the ethical challenges that confront politicians—including demands for favors or appointments and his efforts to avoid them—as well as commenting on his relationship with the media, which he seems to find inflammatory and overreaching. He also addresses the power of North Carolina's governor, both in absolute terms and in relation to the state's legislature, and how that power comes into play in budget negotiations and other arenas. This interview offers a comprehensive look into the world of North Carolina's governor, both its possibilities and its limitations.