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James Baxter Hunt Jr. (born May 16, 1937) is a retired American politician who was the 69th and 71st Governor of North Carolina (1977–1985, and 1993–2001). He is the longest-serving governor in the state's history. Hunt is tied for the fourth-longest gubernatorial tenure in post-Constitutional U.S. history at 5,838 days.[1]

Jim Hunt
Jim Hunt official portrait.jpg
69th and 71st Governor of North Carolina
In office
January 9, 1993 – January 6, 2001
LieutenantDennis Wicker
Preceded byJames G. Martin
Succeeded byMike Easley
In office
January 8, 1977 – January 5, 1985
LieutenantJames C. Green
Preceded byJames Holshouser
Succeeded byJames G. Martin
27th Lieutenant Governor of North Carolina
In office
January 6, 1973 – January 8, 1977
GovernorJames Holshouser
Preceded byHoyt Patrick Taylor Jr.
Succeeded byJames C. Green
Personal details
James Baxter Hunt Jr.

(1937-05-16) May 16, 1937 (age 82)
Greensboro, North Carolina, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Carolyn Hunt
Children4, including Rachel
EducationNorth Carolina State University (BS, MS)
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (JD)

Early lifeEdit

Hunt was born in Greensboro, North Carolina and raised in Wilson, North Carolina.

He is a graduate of North Carolina State College, now known as North Carolina State University, with a B.S. in agricultural education and a M.S. in agricultural economics. During his undergraduate career, Hunt was involved in Student Government. He was the second student to serve two terms as Student Body President of NC State.[2] In 1964, he received a J.D. from the University of North Carolina School of Law. He went on to serve as the President of the Young Democratic Clubs of North Carolina, now known as the Young Democrats of North Carolina.

Political careerEdit

Jim Hunt on the campaign trail 1992

From 1964 to 1966, Hunt was a Ford Foundation economic advisor in Nepal. After working on several state and national campaigns for Democratic candidates and attending several Democratic conventions as a delegate, in addition to his work with the North Carolina Young Democratic Clubs, in 1972 he ran successfully for Lieutenant Governor. He served one term, 1973 to 1977, during the gubernatorial term of Republican James Holshouser.

Hunt is the only Governor of North Carolina to have been elected to four terms. He was first elected Governor in 1976 over Republican David Flaherty and was re-elected in 1980, defeating I. Beverly Lake. Hunt supported a constitutional change during his first term that allowed him to be the first North Carolina governor to run for a second consecutive term.

Hunt CommissionEdit

In 1981 Hunt chaired the Hunt Commission, named after himself, which established superdelegates in the Democratic National Convention.[3]

U.S. Senate RunEdit

In 1984 he lost a bitterly contested race for the U.S. Senate seat held by Jesse Helms, and left elective politics for several years. He returned in 1992 and defeated Republican Lt. Governor and Hardee's executive Jim Gardner to win the Governorship. Hunt was re-elected by a large margin over future US Congressman Robin Hayes in 1996. He left office in January 2001, and was replaced by fellow Democrat, Attorney General Mike Easley.

Actions and political viewsEdit

Governor Jim Hunt introducing candidate Bill Clinton at a rally in 1992
Hunt speaking at North Carolina State University in 1992

In the 1970s Governor Hunt was a supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment and, with his wife Carolyn, he urged its approval by the state legislature (which failed to ratify it by two votes). Hunt was an early proponent of teaching standards and early childhood education, gaining national recognition for the Smart Start program for pre-kindergarteners. In his book, First in America: An education governor challenges North Carolina, Hunt says that under testing and accountability measures he put into place test scores went up. He says 56% of students were proficient in 1994 compared with 70% in the year 2000. He says without testing students slip through the cracks and face a "limited future" (p. 55). In 2000 he was mentioned as a possible Democratic nominee for Vice President of the United States[4] or Education Secretary for Al Gore had Gore been successful in the 2000 presidential race. 2004 Democratic nominee Sen. John Kerry was likewise considering Hunt for Secretary of Education had he won,[citation needed] and he was considered a candidate to be Barack Obama's Secretary of Education.[5]

Hunt served on the Carnegie Task Force, which created the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and more recently on the Spellings Commission on the Future of Higher Education.

As governor, Hunt was involved in a variety of efforts to promote technology and technology-based economic development, including the establishment of the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, and the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics. He was also very successful at recruiting business to his state.

Hunt was key actor in the trial of the Wilmington Ten. By the late 1970s, their case had gained international attention and was viewed as an embarrassment to the US and North Carolina in particular. CBS had broadcast a 60 Minute piece about the case that suggested that the evidence against the ten had been fabricated.[6] In January 1978, following the higher courts' refusal to dismiss these charges, Hunt decided to reduce their sentencing of 20–25 years to 13–17 years rather than pardon and free them.[7] Many black North Carolinian politicians at the time disapproved of Hunt's decision and but the general mentality at the time was that "right now blacks have nowhere else to turn" so there were no organized opposition movement. Howard Nathaniel Lee, however, refused to resign from his appointed role as cabinet secretary, as form of protest against Hunt.[8]

Hunt was criticized for allowing Darryl Hunt (no relation known) to remain in prison for twenty years after the wrongfully convicted Winston-Salem man was exonerated by exculpatory DNA evidence which pointed to another perpetrator. Darryl Hunt was pardoned by the succeeding Governor, Mike Easley. During his terms in office Hunt oversaw 13 executions (two during his first period in office, 11 during his second), including the first post-Furman execution of a female (Velma Barfield) and the first post-Furman execution in North Carolina (James W. Hutchins).


Hunt founded and is chair emeritus of the Institute for Emerging Issues at N.C. State University in Raleigh.[9]

Electoral HistoryEdit


Hunt won a first term, defeating David H. Flaherty 64.99% to 33.90%.


Hunt won a second term, defeating Isaac B. Lake 61.88% to 37.43%.


Hunt won a third term, defeating Former Lieutenant Governor Jim Gardner 52.72% to 43.23%.


Hunt won a fourth term, defeating Robert C. Hayes 55.98% to 42.75%.


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Ostermeier, Eric (April 10, 2013). "The Top 50 Longest-Serving Governors of All Time". Smart Politics.
  2. ^ Historical State: History in Red and White. "James Baxter Hunt, Jr". Archived from the original on July 13, 2012. Retrieved December 21, 2011.
  3. ^ Magnuson, Ed; Allis, Sam (February 20, 1984). "Primed for a Test". Time. Retrieved May 6, 2010.
  4. ^ "Gore considering naming VP immediately after GOP convention". CNN. July 14, 2000. Archived from the original on November 4, 2008. Retrieved June 8, 2008.
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^ "The Wilmington Ten - North Carolina Digital History". February 6, 1971. Archived from the original on August 20, 2017. Retrieved August 20, 2017.
  7. ^
  8. ^ Janken, Kenneth Robert. The Wilmington Ten: Violence, Injustice, and the Rise of Black Politics in the 1970s. Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina, 2015. 152+. Print.
  9. ^ "National Advisory Board". Institute for Emerging Issues. Archived from the original on December 2, 2012. Retrieved December 8, 2012.

External linksEdit