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Gary Pearce tells how a North Carolina farm boy transformed his state in Jim Hunt: A Biography
Jim Hunt was an N.C. farm boy with no money and no political family behind him. Fifty years later, he had become the state’s longest-serving governor. Gary Pearce tells his story in Jim Hunt: A Biography (John F. Blair, November 2010).
Jim Hunt redefined the role of governor in North Carolina. During his tenure, he transformed a poor, rural state dependent on tobacco and textiles into a center for high finance and high-tech industry. He became widely known for his initiatives in education and his progressive leadership in a conservative state. Now, Gary Pearce brings us Hunt’s story in the only authorized biography of the governor, to be published November 15, 2010.
As one of Hunt’s closest political advisers, Pearce was in a unique position to observe his career. He started working with Hunt during his first race for governor in 1976 and served him as press secretary, chief speechwriter, and political and policy adviser through four gubernatorial administrations and five statewide campaigns. In Jim Hunt: A Biography, Pearce draws from his own observations and experience with Hunt to offer a view from inside the political wars. “No one else worked with him as closely or as long as I did, and no one had the access to him I had,” says Pearce. “I tell what it was like to be in some of the most hard-fought and bitter political battles in the country.” He also conducted over 30 interviews with Hunt and more than 50 interviews with friends, family, staffers, political allies, and opponents.
Jim Hunt: A Biography traces Hunt’s career—the journey of a progressive politician during a time of unprecedented economic, social, and racial change in North Carolina. The book also offers a front-row account of the bitter U.S. Senate race between Hunt and Jesse Helms in 1984, a battle which Hunt lost. Pearce offers behind-the-scenes glimpses at strategy discussions, the role of racial politics, and Hunt’s dilemma over how to handle Helms’s negative television ads.
Hunt was able to recover from that devastating defeat to win two more terms as governor. And after he left the governor’s office, Hunt plunged into good works, among them the James B. Hunt Jr. Institute for Educational Leadership and Policy, which focuses on educating governors and legislators across the country on how to improve public education, and the Institute for Emerging Issues and the Emerging Issues Forum at North Carolina State University, his alma mater.
Over the years, Hunt has come to be seen less as a politician and more as a statesman. One observer told him, “You’re the one person in the state who can rally everybody around a cause.” Though Hunt is no longer in office, his influence continues to shape North Carolina’s educational system, economic future and political scene today.
Gary Pearce began his career as a reporter and editor at the News & Observer in Raleigh, North Carolina. While covering state government and the legislature, Pearce realized his heart was in politics, and he became press secretary for Hunt’s first campaign for governor in 1976. He has remained a close personal and political adviser to Hunt since. Today Pearce is a consultant to corporations and nonprofit organizations and co-publishes the daily blog www.talkingaboutpolitics.com.
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John F. Blair, Publisher, is an independent, family-owned company that publishes book on the southeastern United States and is based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Learn more at www.blairpub.com.