Title: Oral History Interview with James B. Hunt, August 15, 2001. Interview C-0331.
Interviewer: Fleer, Jack
Interviewee: Hunt, James B.
Abstract: In the second of three interviews, four-term Democratic North Carolina Governor James B. Hunt describes the qualities of an effective governor. He recalls how his experience as the lieutenant governor to a Republican governor in the early 1970s taught him the need for bipartisanship. Hunt says that these elements shaped his philosophy as governor and resulted in political accomplishments, including the Smart Start educational program and the Coastal Area Management Act, an environmental initiative. Hunt advocates building a strong and dedicated team of people to surround the governor in order to best implement his policies. His emphasis on team-building and delegation gave him more time to meet with his constituency. Hunt also describes the ethical challenges he faced with patronage in state job positions and his tense relationship with the Council of State, an independently-elected executive cabinet. Because of Hunt's willingness to cooperate with Republican politicians, lingering tensions faded quickly. He describes the growing centrality of the media to political campaigns, including his own; he maintains that his good working relationship with the media allowed him to accept the media's constructive criticism and helped him to avoid the excessive negative smears that beset other North Carolina governors. Hunt discuses the personal, emotional, and physical strains of running for and serving as governor: canvassing the state for votes, spending long stretches of time away from his family, reviewing clemency cases, and being continually scrutinized by the media—his good relationship with them notwithstanding—all took a physical and emotional toll on Hunt. Hunt also touches on such subjects as gubernatorial succession, veto power, and budgetary powers.