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The Making of a Southern Democracy

North Carolina Politics from Kerr Scott to Pat McCrory

Tom Eamon

Publication Year: 2014

The story of modern politics in North Carolina is very much one of American democracy, with all its grand ambitions, limitations, and pitfalls. So argues Tom Eamon in his probing narrative of the state's political path since the 1940s. He charts the state's political transformation into a modern democratic society to show that this change was more than an evolution--it was a revolution, one that largely came about through political means, driven by strong movements and individuals working for change.
By tracking the turbulence of politics throughout the period, from racial tensions to student demonstrations to fierce rivalries in the higher education arena, Eamon explores how conflict helped build a better society even as the state continued to lag in many areas. This rich account opens to readers the unforgettable people and hard-fought elections that have shaped North Carolina's competitive personality and have led to the state's emergence as a major player in twenty-first-century American politics.

Published by: The University of North Carolina Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

Illustrations and Maps

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xiv

The outstanding staff at UNC Press has provided me with assistance far beyond what one might receive from the typical publisher. The staff took a keen interest in the book and made invaluable suggestions. They paid close attention to details in an attempt to achieve perfection. Furthermore, they were unfailingly courteous and welcoming. Some staff members I met ...

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pp. 1-14

After the triumph of freedom in World War II, the American South re-mained entrenched in its old ways. It was a rural and traditional region where white supremacy prevailed even as schoolchildren were taught the words ?All men are created equal.? North Carolina, a state that had some claim to being the most innovative and progressive in the South, lived in a ...

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1. Uprisings

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pp. 15-31

It is a well-known genre, especially in the American South?the self-proclaimed economic populist running for offi ce on a platform calling for more abundant lives for struggling, ordinary, hardworking folks. ?The Man? Bilbo in Mississippi?were foul-mouthed racists who poi-soned the political environments in their states. Others, notably North ...

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2. The 1950s

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pp. 32-57

The United States has never seen greater change in day-to-day life than it experienced from 1900 to 1950. By 1950, the automobile provided the chief means of daily transportation. North Carolina, though far removed from the leading centers of economic gravity, boasted of direct air service to New York, Washington, Boston, and Atlanta, even if North Carolina?s air-...

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3. There’s a New Day Coming

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pp. 58-89

Seldom does history bend itself to the human calendar. But barely into the new decade, dramatic events unfolded. They started in Greensboro on February 1, 1960, when four young men from North Carolina A&T State College, an all-black public school, quietly seated themselves on lunch counter stools in Woolworth?s fi ve-and-dime. The demonstrators were met ...

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4. The Unsettled Society

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pp. 90-115

Rare are the days that capture the collective consciousness of a nation: November 11, 1918, when church bells pealed across the land to signal the end of the ?war to end all wars?; December 7, 1941, after the Japanese at-tack on Pearl Harbor; April 12, 1945, following the radio bulletin reporting the death of the seemingly immortal President Franklin Delano Roosevelt; ...

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5. Dirges in the Dark

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pp. 116-136

Beginning in the mid-1960s, a small group of students, left-leaning intel-lectuals, and Quakers stood like sentinels at such locales as the sidewalk outside the Chapel Hill post offi ce. Their anti?Vietnam War protest was a lonely one. Then, in 1968, antiwar sentiment began to spread even in con-servative North Carolina. But 1968 would be the least peaceful of years. ...

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6. The Storms of ’72

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pp. 137-156

The bitterest races, the ones that can tear a party asunder, do not always in-volve sharp ideological or issue diff erences. Ego sometimes eclipses grand ideas. The 1972 Democratic primaries for the U.S. Senate and governorship ripped the North Carolina party apart in ways that could not have been foreseen. Major debates over political philosophy would have to await the ...

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7. Transition in the Shadow of Watergate

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pp. 157-183

On three occasions in the fi rst three-quarters of the twentieth century, na-tional political tides reversed with a vengeance: the 1930?32 descent into economic despair; the late 1960s and early 1970s, when many whites grew weary of social protest movements; and from 1973 to 1976 in the shadow of The 1972 campaign shenanigans fi rst entered the public consciousness ...

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8. Eyes toward Washington

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pp. 184-199

The achievements of the Hunt administration stood out in a period when the Democratic Party and the country lurched from one crisis to another. Jimmy Carter approached the presidency with the spirit of a pietistic preacher and the mind of an engineer. His self-righteous nature and pen-chant for effi ciency at the expense of the usual political courtesies turned ...

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9. The New South Meets the New Right

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pp. 200-227

By the mid-1980s, the South had assimilated into the American culture as never before. No longer America?s stepchild, the region had come a long way since the 1930s, when Franklin D. Roosevelt labeled it the nation?s number 1 economic problem. Whatever ingrained prejudices remained, the legal and political systems embraced the principles of racial equality ...

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10. Breaking New Ground

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pp. 228-258

There were few hints of a dramatic political turn. The middle class pros-pered. Infl ation slowed. The urban South led the nation in economic growth. North Carolina?s cities and resort areas boomed. Charlotte pur-sued a major cleanup after a blast from Hurricane Hugo in September 1989, a storm that had continued to wreak havoc when it moved inland from the ...

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11. Partisan Mix

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pp. 259-286

Despite the Clinton interlude, conservative Republicans had driven much of the national political agenda since 1980. Beginning in 1994, the GOP controlled Congress. And the same year, Republicans had assumed con-trol of the N.C. House of Representatives, long the domain of moderate to conservative Democrats. Republicans zealously pursued a tax-cutting ...

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12. Seismic Shifts

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pp. 287-322

Not since the 1894?1900 period had North Carolina been so politically volatile as it was from 2008 through 2012. First, the Democrats made strides not imagined a few years earlier. North Carolina emerged as a major swing state in presidential politics. Soon thereafter, Republicans achieved hith-erto unseen levels of support on the legislative level. However, North ...

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Epilogue: The Perilous Climb

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pp. 323-330

The opportunities and pitfalls of democracy are central to the story of North Carolina politics and of American politics in general. Since the fi rst half of the twentieth century, North Carolina has taken dramatic strides for-ward. But with political freedom and party competition may come greater risk of paralysis in government. ? Confl ict has been a constant in the Ameri-...

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Appendix: Comments on Methodology and General Approach

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pp. 331-334

This book is research-based and at the same time refl ects personal ob-servations and impressions of the writer. Such personal observations can provide readers with valuable insights, and sometimes there are no rea-sonable substitutes. For that I off er no apology. Indeed, such an approach was essential to explaining both fairly and honestly the changing times. ...


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pp. 335-372


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pp. 373-402

E-ISBN-13: 9781469612478
E-ISBN-10: 146961247X
Print-ISBN-13: 9781469606972
Print-ISBN-10: 1469606976

Page Count: 416
Illustrations: 2 line drawings, 1 map
Publication Year: 2014