Student Leaders: Jim Hunt recalls his political awakening

June 12, 2013
By Bill Krueger

No one has served as North Carolina’s governor longer than James B. Hunt Jr., who served for four terms throughout the 70s, 80s and 90s. It was an unprecedented political career that got its start at NC State.

jimhunt1Hunt served as student body president for two terms (naturally), from 1957-59. When he was interviewed for the Student Leadership Initiative, an effort by NCSU Libraries to document the efforts of student leaders at NC State through the years and record their memories of their time on campus, Hunt credited his time as student body president, as well as a certain professor, for helping him appreciate the important role that politics can and should play in society.

“My political philosophy was developed there and my activism was developed there,” Hunt said in one of six interview segments with the former governor. “And of course a lot of that comes from what you believe about what’s right and wrong in the world. I believe that God loves us all equally and wants us all to have a good life and be treated fairly.

“It’s wrong to mistreat people and it’s wrong to be mistreated, and I’ve spent my life trying to correct that and to see that people are given a fair opportunity to have a good life.”

Hunt said political science professor Abraham Holtzman had “a profound impact on me and I think stimulated me to political activism, to run for office, to choose the issues that I thought were important, and treating people right and giving them an opportunity to be all they can be.”

Hunt talked in another interview segment about his father, James B. Hunt Sr., and his time at NC State during the Great Depression. His father worked hard while he was in school to help pay for his college education. That work included getting up at 3 a.m. to peel potatoes for meals at the boarding house where he lived.

“I find that a lot of young people today don’t know much about the Depression, have no idea of its depth, what happened to people, what happened to families,” Hunt said.

jimhunt2Hunt also talked about his decision to attend NC State, saying it was a natural fit after growing up on a dairy farm. But he changed his initial plans to major in dairy husbandry after taking a couple of touch chemistry courses that were required for the major.

“I saw another tough chemistry course coming up… it was reputed to be the toughest course in the college and I didn’t much want to take it,” he said. “But that wasn’t the main reason I changed my major. I changed my major because I decided that becoming an agriculture teacher was something I might rather do.”

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2 Responses to “Student Leaders: Jim Hunt recalls his political awakening”

  1. JIMKIRKLAND says:

    My late father, J. Bryant Kirkland, was Dean of the College of Education at NCSU when Jim Hunt was a student. Until the day he died, he always followed the lives of his former students. Needless to say, he was justly proud of this one.

  2. Eugene Pickler says:

    Good article. I am three years ahead of Jim whom I came to know very well during his freshman year. He and I have seen each other many times since college but this is the first time I ever knew about the influence of Professor Abraham Holtzman. Dr. Holtzman also had more influence than anyone on my becoming active in the political life of my community. His influence still has an effect on me.

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