Holshouser Praises Bob Scott
Bob Scott made history as governor of North Carolina, and Sam Ragan, former editor and publisher of The Pilot, played a key role in that.
Scott, 79, who served as governor from 1969 until 1973, died Friday.
In 1971, Scott appointed Ragan as the first secretary of the brand new N.C. Department of Cultural Resources. The state agency was originally named the Department of Art, Culture and History, but it was later shortened.
Formation of the department made history in more than one way.
Former Gov. Jim Holshouser, who followed Scott to the governor's mansion, said the Department of Cultural Resources was part of the historic reorganization of state government, a reorganization that probably no other governor could have accomplished.
Norris Hodgkins, another Southern Pines resident, also points out that North Carolina became the first state with a cultural resources agency designated at the cabinet level. He thinks it may still be that way. His first wife, the late Sara Hodgkins, served as secretary of cultural resources during the first two terms of Gov. Jim Hunt.
Before his election as governor, Holshouser served four terms in the state legislature, including Scott's tenure as the state's chief executive. As a member of the opposing party, Holshouser admitted that he watched the governor's actions very carefully. Surprisingly, he found that he often agreed with Scott's action.
The Reorganization Act of 1971, which led to formation of the Department of Cultural Resources, was a strategic victory for the governor. Under that law, an estimated 75 to 100 departments, agencies, commissions and related panels were merged into 16 major departments. Scott also oversaw consolidation of the state University system during that same time.
Holshouser recalls that passage of the Reorganization Act was difficult to achieve because of the intricate relationships and attendant political connections. He says many people favored the merger of agencies into more efficient organizations as long as it was some other group's agencies.
"But it did serve the state well," said Holshouser, a Republican and friend of Scott, who was a Democrat.
Many of those agencies had their own fiefdoms, and it was not easy gaining approval to reduce power in order to achieve greater bureaucratic efficiency. Services provided by such organizations as the art museum, history and archives, the state symphony orchestra and state library were consolidated into the Department of Cultural Resources.
Although it may have scattered the distribution of power, the consolidation resulted in a more even disbursement of available funds and streamlined services.
Holshouser thinks that the massive reorganization may have been the first such major undertaking since the days of Gov. O. Max Gardner in the early 1930s.
The responsibility of working out the initial administration of the new department fell to Ragan, who carried out those duties while continuing to run the newspaper in Southern Pines. Ragan, who was later named state poet laureate, commuted daily from his home in Southern Pines to Raleigh to run the department. Ragan, who bought The Pilot in 1968, died in 1996.
But it was consolidation of the state university system that was an even more remarkable accomplishment, according to Holshouser, whose law firm has an office in Pinehurst. He called it "a political miracle."
"That was the most lasting accomplishment of his term," Holshouser said. "People who didn't follow the happenings at the time have no idea how much political capital he expended."
Part of that political capital stemmed from his inherited status as one of the "Branchhead Boys," the term first applied to the dove hunting group formed by his father, Kerr Scott, who served the state first as agriculture secretary, then as governor and finally as U.S. senator. The Branchhead Boys were later regarded as the background for a strong political machine spearheaded by Kerr Scott.
Holshouser and other political leaders agree that the university consolidation was one of the most difficult achievements of any North Carolina leader, largely because the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina State University in Raleigh and UNC-Greensboro (formerly Women's College) had powerful alumni/ political backing and supporters were reluctant to give up that authority. Nevertheless, Scott pulled it off by turning the state's sprawling system of higher education into a unified, cohesive system.
"The record is just remarkable," Holshouser said. "I never felt that he got the credit he deserved."
Holshouser sees Scott's tenure as a period of political transition during a critical time in state and national history.
Scott is also remembered as the last governor who was an honest-to-goodness farmer. Like his father before him, Scott was a dairy farmer, continuing the family tradition on the Scott farm in Alamance County. One source described Bob Scott as the last North Carolina governor who not only knew how to milk a cow but could actually do it.
"He led a transition from old-style politics to a new style," Holshouser said. "He was probably our last governor who had real clout with the rural areas. Bob Scott had a lot of that thread in his character."
On Scott's watch, the state secured its first comprehensive environmental protection law and the first sales tax was levied on cigarettes and soft drinks.
Scott's departure from the governor's mansion did not signal his departure from public service. He served 11 years as president of the state's 58-campus community college system and helped with Jimmy Carter's campaign for the presidency. His only other foray into politics was an unsuccessful try to unseat Gov. Jim Hunt, a fellow Democrat, in 1980.
Prior to his election as governor, Scott served as lieutenant governor under Gov. Terry Sanford.
In recent years, Scott suffered from heart problems and had been largely inactive in recent years.
Holshouser and George Little, both Republicans, were among the local residents who attended the funeral service Tuesday morning at Hawfields Presbyterian Church in Mebane. Little, who served in Holshouser's cabinet, knew Scott through his relationship with the community college system. Little is the longtime chariman of the Sandhills Community College Board of Trustees.
Contact Florence Gilkeson at 947-4962 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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