The Influence of Governor Kerr Scott

Governor James Baxter Hunt, Jr. reflects on how his early impressions of Governor Kerr Scott taught him how understanding and utilizing the political system can improve citizens' lives.

Interview on 2012-05-29


00:00:00.000 And Kerr Scott came along and was elected in 1948 as governor.
00:00:09.443 This was a time when
00:00:15.564 the political
00:00:19.029 power in North Carolina
00:00:22.668 lay in the hands of big business,
00:00:26.207 companies that provided electricity,
00:00:30.936 banks, the big companies,
00:00:34.046 which by the way are very important; we have to have them.
00:00:36.824 But they controlled politics
00:00:39.510 at that time and the little farmers didn't have much of a voice.
00:00:44.023 The money for politics came from these big companies.
00:00:48.556 and their idea was hold down taxes, hold down regulation.
00:00:53.534 Don't mess with us. We're doing fine but don't you mess with us, government.
00:00:57.078 Stay out of our hair.
00:00:59.479 And the situation was that people out in the country didn't have electricity.
00:01:05.650 They didn't have telephones.
00:01:08.402 They didn't have paved roads.
00:01:10.750 They had poor schools and not much healthcare.
00:01:13.812 And nothing was happening to change it.
00:01:16.492 So this fellow, Kerr Scott, came along. He first became commissioner of agriculture.
00:01:22.210 From Haw River in Alamance County.
00:01:24.892 and he thought those things were wrong and they ought to change.
00:01:28.453 So he was commissioner of agriculture for a few terms and then in 1948
00:01:34.899 he ran for governor against the power structure in the state
00:01:41.571 And he beat them.
00:01:44.852 And he came into the governorship
00:01:48.813 and lo and behold he proposed that we
00:01:52.939 force the electrical companies that were serving the towns to run power lines out into the country,
00:01:59.047 that we require the telephone companies to put lines out to the country,
00:02:04.587 that we pass a bond issue
00:02:09.276 -a three hundred million dollar bond issue, which is nothing today-
00:02:12.926 so that we could pave roads
00:02:17.133 and people could get from their farms into town without getting stuck in the mud.
00:02:21.558 Well, my family had worked hard to elect Kerr Scott.
00:02:28.676 They thought he was the kind of progressive person that would improve the lives of us average people.
00:02:35.812 And Kerr Scott won and he went about doing the very things he said he would do.
00:02:42.501 And one of the things he did, when I was thirteen years old,
00:02:47.513 was to have our farm road paved.
00:02:53.005 Now, as I said, most people don't understand how important it is to have a paved road because they all live on them now.
00:03:00.673 In those days most of them were not paved.
00:03:03.396 They were dirt,
00:03:05.564 and as I said, you'd get stuck in the middle of the road in the winter,
00:03:09.128 And Kerr Scott paved ours when I was thirteen years old. I stood at the mailbox
00:03:14.962 -my house was about two hundred yards from the mailbox-
00:03:18.043 and I saw that road paving machine come down our road,
00:03:24.312 laying down that asphalt,
00:03:27.905 paving our road,
00:03:30.102 and I thought to myself,
00:03:32.896 through politics you can improve your life.
00:03:37.474 You can get some things down that you deserve to have done and that people need to have done.
00:03:44.671 That's the first time it really hit me
00:03:48.506 about how important it is to get involved in the political process.