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DOWN BUT NOT OUT: T H E STATE S U R V I V E S T H E G R E A T D E P R E S S I O N HEN Angus W. McLean succeeded Cameron Morrison asgovernor in 1925, manyNorth Carolinians, except farmers, were enjoyinga period of rising prosperity. The state was laying the foundation for what would soon become one of the best highway systems in the nation. The University of North Carolina and the state-maintained colleges were receiving more generous support than ever, and the privateand church-related colleges were also flourishing. The munificent Duke Endowment wasproviding support not only for the newly created Duke University, but also for Davidson College and Johnson C. Smith University, many hospitals and orphanages, and to aid retired Methodist ministers. Under Governor Morrison's leadership public schools had been improved and the length of the term extended. The electorate wasgiven an opportunity to vote on a plan to improve the state's ports but rejected it. Business was healthy and for most workers income was reliable and steady. Farm prices, however,had recently declined; and while the number of farms increased, the averagesize decreased. In North Carolina it had long been the practiceofthe people to manage their own affairs as they pleased, and to keep both state and local taxes low and all levels of government as nearly invisible as possible. As the first quarter of the twentieth century passed, however, this attitude toward government began to change. It wasnot only individualswho came to expect the government to take the lead in charting the state's future, but business, professional, and social groups aswell. People began to approve the creation of new state agencies with programs unimagined a few years before. Governor McLean, born on a farm in Robeson County, was a lawyer who had represented the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad for manyyears and had played a key role in building a rail connection between that line and his hometown, Lumberton. He served two terms on the town board of commissioners, wasa member of the state executive committee of the Democratic party, and, because 474 24 W 475 The Great Depression of hisrole in raisingfunds for Woodrow Wilson's presidential campaign in North Carolina, hewasnamed assistantsecretaryof the treasuryin 1920. A Scotsman by heritage, he was a founder of three textile mills and a profitable bank, and his reputation for thrift and his commercial acumen made him attractive to voters when he ran for governor in 1924. The "Businessman's Governor" When the General Assembly met in January 1925, McLean proposed the creation of an executivebudget system, much as his predecessor had advocated. This time it wasapproved, and the governor henceforth became exofficio director of the budget. Through the Advisory Budget Commission, he would be responsible for preparingastate budget to be approved bythe General Assembly. Beginning with that act, legislative appropriations were budgeted to the various state agencies, and since then North Carolina has enjoyed the security of a balanced budget. All revenue collecting activities were consolidated in the State Department ofRevenue, and deposits were made dailyin an officially designated bank. Interest earned became a part of the state's revenue, and, due to this new financial arrangement, when McLean's term ended in 1928 there wasasurplus of $2.5 million in the treasury. According to his successor, this saved the state from bankruptcy during the financial crisis that began the next year. McLean was called the "businessman's governor," and his sound policies were appreciated by people across the state. Through his guidance the General Assembly drew up a new state personnel policy under which a uniform salary and wage schedule wasadopted and state employees were classified. The responsibilities of the Corporation Commission were defined to include the supervision and regulation of business, financial, and industrial organizations. Previously lawyers had been retained by various state agencies as needed, but as an economy measure new provisions centralized all legal activities under the attorney general. The old Geological and Economic Survey,whose origin could be traced back through several changes of name to 1823, was succeeded by the Department of Conservation and Development, an agency that Governor Morrison had also envisioned but failed to have approved. Under his predecessor, McLean had served on a commission charged with recommending changes in the laws pertaining to county government. Now that he wasgovernor, McLean set about implementing the commission's recommendations . As a result, the 1927 General Assembly provided a new...


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