Title: Oral History Interview with James E. Holshouser Jr., May 9, 1998. Interview C-0328-3.
Interviewer: Fleer, Jack
Interviewee: Holshouser, James E.
Abstract: In 1972, James E. Holshouser Jr. became the first Republican elected governor of North Carolina since 1896. In his four-year term, Holshouser faced the unique challenge of reintroducing the Republican Party to a leadership position in Raleigh. In this interview, he describes that challenge, reflects on his term, and considers some of the changes that took place between his departure from the governor's mansion and the time of this 1998 interview. The most significant challenge Holshouser addresses is the personal strain of a job that demanded constant attention. He remembers disappointments such as his failed effort to shepherd Gerald Ford to the Republican nomination in 1980, and a deteriorating relationship with the media. After he left office in 1977, he observed as the influence of money grew, often disbursed by political action committees pushing an increasing number of different interests; he saw the Republican Party grow in complexity as ideological divisions replaced regional ones; and he watched the decline of the citizen-politician, as politics became a profession rather than a calling. Holshouser also considers his legacy, including his contributions to transportation, health, and the environment. As he reflects on these changes and challenges, Holshouser reveals himself as a consensus-builder and something of a pragmatist, a politician suspicious of ideology and in favor of a robust two-party system. This interview will be useful for students of North Carolina politics and those interested in one of the state's few Republican governors of the modern era.