Title: Oral History Interview with James B. Hunt, May 18, 2001. Interview C-0329.
Interviewer: Fleer, Jack
Interviewee: Hunt, James B.
Abstract: In this first of three interviews, four-term Democratic North Carolina Governor James B. Hunt recalls his initial interest in elective politics and the Democratic Party. His childhood in a rural community and the influence of his parents—both of whom were members of the Grange, a farming organization—instilled in Hunt a rural progressive outlook and a deep sympathy for the plight of farmers. In high school, Hunt joined the Future Farmers of America and the 4-H club. When he attended North Carolina State University in the late 1950s, Hunt maintained his membership in these clubs, where he came to understand parliamentary procedures and how to organize people. Hunt describes his work with the Democratic Party during this time; his interest in Democratic policies heightened as he worked with Terry Sanford's gubernatorial and John F. Kennedy's presidential campaigns. He joined the Young Democrats, which served as a political training ground for future Democratic politicians throughout the state. Hunt mobilized Young Voters for Terry Sanford, who won the governorship of North Carolina in 1960. By 1968, Hunt had risen through the ranks of the Democratic Party to serve as the state president of the Young Democrats. In the same year, Hunt witnessed a Republican upswing in state elections when James Gardner won his bid for the U.S. House of Representatives. Hunt cites the growth of conservatism in North Carolina as one reason he decided to run for political office in 1972 and 1975. This interview will be useful for researchers interested in the grassroots organizing strategies of the Democratic Party in North Carolina.