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Oral History Interview with James E. Holshouser Jr., January 31, 1998. Interview C-0328-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007).
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  • 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.
  • Holshouser's early political career
  • Appreciating the sincerity of politicians
  • Benefitting from his father's good name
  • Having fun in the legislature
  • A disliked GOP in 1960s North Carolina
  • Impact of membership in the Republican minority
  • Frustration with lawmaking process as a motivator
  • Thoughts on the GOP post-Goldwater
  • Timing was key in Holshouser's gubernatorial run
  • Winning the Republican nomination with help from friends and allies
  • Moderate Holshouser and conservative Helms balance the Republican ticket in 1972
  • Minimizing ideological differences between himself and Jesse Helms
  • State and national candidates do not coordinate messages
  • Winning the governorship with a broad voting coalition and an opponent's missteps
  • Ending a campaign free from burdensome obligations to donors
  • The importance of character in politics
  • Campaigns have grown more expensive and media-reliant
  • Thoughts on polling
  • Governor as CEO and cheerleader
  • A vicious media sours on the governor-elect
  • A decline the quality of political journalism since the mid-1960s
  • Learn More
  • Finding aid to the Southern Oral History Program Collection
  • Database of all Southern Oral History Program Collection interviews
  • The Southern Oral History Program transcripts presented here on Documenting the American South undergo an editorial process to remove transcription errors. Texts may differ from the original transcripts held by the Southern Historical Collection.

    Funding from the Institute for Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this title.