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James Eubert Holshouser Jr. became North Carolina’s first Republican governor in more than 70 years upon his election in 1972. The Boone native died Monday. Photo courtesy of the Holshouser family.


As news of Holshouser's death spread Monday, elected officials from both sides of the aisle remembered his contributions to the state.


U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx

"Watauga and North Carolina lost a great son today. Gov. Jim Holshouser, a native of Boone and personal friend of mine for a great many years, was known for his compassion, his kindness and his visionary leadership style.

North Carolina bears the positive imprint of Governor Holshouser's service, and Republicans and Democrats alike mourn his passing.

My thoughts and prayers go out to the entire Holshouser family in this time of sadness and reflection. The gratitude of a great many North Carolinians are with them for sharing the governor with us so generously and for providing him with the strength and support he needed to take our state in the direction of a brighter future." 


U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan

"I am sad to learn that former Governor Jim Holshouser has died. Jim was such a good man, and I've long admired his ability to work with Democrats and Republicans. His moderate, consensus-building approach made him an effective leader who brought health clinics to underserved areas, bolstered our public education system and backed important legislation to protect our environment. Jim served during a time of great change in our nation. As our state and our country worked to fulfill our ideals as a land of opportunity for all, he appointed African-Americans to key positions and named the first woman to a cabinet-level position. Jim leaves behind many contributions to North Carolina, and my thoughts and prayers are with Jim's family during this difficult time."


U.S. Sen. Richard Burr

"I was terribly sad to hear of Gov. Jim Holshouser's passing. Gov. Holshouser was one of the kindest and most sincere people to ever become involved in North Carolina politics. Staying true to his mountain roots, Jim would always shoot you straight and stay true to his word. His lifelong dedication to service to our state was defined by many outstanding accomplishments that made North Carolina a better place to live. To those of us who knew him personally, Jim was a trusted counselor, leader, and, most importantly, a great friend. Today, all North Carolinians have lost one of the true statesmen of our time."

Originally published: 2013-06-17 12:05:56
Last modified: 2013-06-18 12:27:24

Former Gov. Jim Holshouser, Watauga native, dies at 78

Former Gov. Jim Holshouser, a Watauga County native, died early Monday morning at FirstHealth of the Carolinas Medical Center in Pinehurst after a period of declining health.

He was 78.

Holshouser was born Oct. 8, 1934, in Boone and was elected as governor of North Carolina in 1972, becoming the state's first Republican governor since 1896. He was the youngest governor ever elected in North Carolina and the last governor unable to run for a second term.

Gov. Pat McCrory said in a statement Monday that Holshouser's advice was invaluable as he served on the governor's transition team.

"James Holshouser was more than a friend and mentor; he was a genuine leader," McCrory said. "His passing is not only a loss for the state of North Carolina, but for the countless number of people who were personally touched by his guidance and kindness."

Holshouser graduated from Appalachian High School and Davidson College and earned a law degree from the University of North Carolina School of Law. After law school, Holshouser returned to Boone to practice law before entering statewide politics.

He served in the N.C. House of Representatives in 1963, from 1965 to 1966 and again in 1969 and 1971, according to the National Governors Association.

As governor from 1973-77, Holshouser oversaw the consolidation of the state's major colleges and universities into the University of North Carolina system and implemented statewide enrollment for kindergarten. He also is credited with leading a major capital improvement program for the state's community colleges.

An advocate for rural North Carolinians, Holshouser established clinics in rural areas not served by local physicians. He also led a North Carolina trade mission to the Soviet Union and Eastern European countries in September 1973.

He served in numerous posts and advisory roles until just a few weeks ago, including the UNC Board of Governors, on which he served as an emeritus member.

In 1997, Appalachian State University established the James E. Holshouser Jr. Distinguished Professor of Ethics chair in the Walker College of Business, a professorship currently held by Alan Singer.

Until his death, Holshouser was a practicing attorney with his firm in Pinehurst, Sanford Holshouser, which he started with former Democratic Governor Terry Sanford.

Holshouser was a charter member of First Presbyterian Church in Boone and was most recently a member of Brownson Memorial Presbyterian in Southern Pines, where he served as an elder, deacon, choir member and Sunday School teacher over the years.

He also was a kidney transplant survivor and a strong advocate for organ donation.

Holshouser was married to the former Patricia Hollingsworth exactly 52 years prior to his death Monday. She died in 2006.

Holshouser's only daughter, Ginny Holshouser Mills of Winston-Salem, said in a statement Monday that the family was grateful for the loving care from the staff at FirstHealth and St. Joseph of the Pines and for friends and family who provided support in recent months.

"Most of all, we are grateful for his example of wisdom, integrity, love and servant leadership," she said.

A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Friday in Southern Pines.