Editorial: Leadership, commitment and integrity

Jun. 17, 2013 @ 04:54 PM

When Jim Holshouser was elected governor, tobacco was still king, Democrats ruled not only Raleigh but most all points from the mountains to the coast, and governors only served one term.

Much has changed since 1972. Change is arguably the single-most consistency of life.

Holshouser, who died Monday, might be best described by his daughter Ginny. She spoke of his examples through wisdom, integrity, love and servant leadership.

With those as a foundation, his impact went well beyond his four years in the governor’s office.

He not only ended a 76-year span between Republican governors, he was also the youngest ever elected to office. And as such, much of his lifetime’s work was still ahead when he left office.

He governed at a time when desegregated schools still had newness to it. There was still evidence of significant racial divide within communities.

While in office, kindergartners started enrolling statewide, he championed capital improvements to community colleges and he reshaped the UNC system’s board of governors.

When it came time for major economic change in the state, Holshouser was there as well, partnering with former Gov. Terry Sanford in the 1990s. They worked together on economic development while the Old North State, for so long a dominant agriculture base, continued to evolve into today’s varied technology, pharmaceutical and banking base.

Holshouser tore down a gender barrier for state Cabinets, appointing Grace Rohrer as commissioner of the Department of Art, History and Culture.

Holshouser was known for bringing Democrats and Republicans together for good. With Jim Hunt, who followed him into the governor’s office, he found commonality to foster stronger education practices. They also worked for state-funded judicial elections.

Gov. Pat McCrory made him a part of his transition team earlier this year.

He also advocated organ donation, himself a kidney transplant survivor of a quarter century, since 1986.

Holshouser’s place among North Carolina’s governors isn’t necessarily for a greatest accomplishment or an outstanding act. But rather, he was a governor who had visions for the future and who worked tirelessly for the people he served, no matter their political stripes.

He loved this state and its people. The characteristics of his leadership were good then, and they would serve us well now.