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James Baxter Hunt Jr. (born May 16, 1937) is an American politician and a former four-term Democratic governor of the state of North Carolinamarker (1977–1985, and 1993–2001). He is the longest-serving governor in the state's history.

Early life

Hunt was born in Wilson, North Carolinamarker.

He is a graduate of North Carolina State Universitymarker, with a B.S. in agricultural education and a M.S. in agricultural economics. He also served as Student Body President. In 1964, he received a J.D. from the University of North Carolina School of Lawmarker.

Political career

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. He previously served a term as Lieutenant Governor (1973–1977) under Republican Governor James Holshouser. 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.

Hunt Commission

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

Hunt was an early proponent of teaching standards and early childhood education, gaining national recognition for the Smart Start program for pre-kindergarteners. 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.

Hunt has been criticized for over-spending during the economic boom of the late 1990s, which contributed to severe budget shortfalls in the early 2000s.

Hunt was also criticized for allowing Darryl Hunt (no close 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).


Governor 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 Holstein Cattle and miniature pony "Herby".

Governor 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.marker State Universitymarker in Raleigh. He also serves on the North Carolina Advisory Board of DonorsChoose.


Hunt is Presbyterian and attends First Presbyterian Church of Wilson, NC.


James B. Hunt High School in Wilson County, North Carolinamarker is named for him, as is a dormitory at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematicsmarker.


  • "Education is our future it’s everything. We must not settle for anything short of excellence in our schools."


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