James Baxter "Jim" Hunt, Jr. (born May 16, 1937) is an 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 5,840 days.
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. 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.
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.
In 1981 Hunt chaired the Hunt Commission, named after himself, which established superdelegates in the Democratic National Convention.
U.S. Senate Run
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 Hardees 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 views
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 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, and he was considered a candidate to be Barack Obama's Secretary of Education.
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 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 currently is a member of the law firm of Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice PLLC, in its Raleigh office. He also enjoys spending his time on his farm looking after his Simmental Cattle and miniature pony Herby.
Hunt chairs the Board of Directors of two institutes which he founded, The James B. Hunt, Jr. Institute for Educational Leadership and Policy at UNC-Chapel Hill, and the Institute for Emerging Issues at N.C. State University in Raleigh. He also serves on the North Carolina Advisory Board of DonorsChoose.
- The following are named for Governor Hunt:
- James B. Hunt, Jr. Library at North Carolina State University Centennial Campus
- James B. Hunt High School in Wilson County, North Carolina
- James B. Hunt, Jr. Residence Hall at North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics
- James B. Hunt Horse Complex at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds is used year-round for horse shows and other agricultural exhibitions.
- The M/V Gov. James B. Hunt, Jr. is the primary ferry on the Currituck Sound route, making daily runs between Currituck and Knotts Island, operated by the North Carolina Department of Transportation Ferry Division
- An authorized biography of Hunt, authored by former press secretary Gary Pearce, was released in the fall of 2010.