ALAMANCE County has had able leadership since its beginning, with men and women from all walks of life joining in a single effort of service to their cities and county, but they seldom tried to go beyond this goal. Particularly in recent years, the pattern for state leadership appeared to be a cut and dried matter, especially with respect to the governor's office. High officials, invariably, would come from the east or the west in the state, and Alamance County was generally regarded as an "in-between."
It is particularly fitting, however, as the county observes its 100th anniversary, that one of its native sons, William Kerr Scott, is occupying the chief executive's position for North Carolina and probably will go down in the state's history as one of the most effective political campaigners the state ever has known. He has established records that possibly will stand for years to come.
It is significant, also, that Governor Scott is the first elected governor of North Carolina to come from Alamance County, though Thomas M. Holt ascended to the chair from the Lieutenant Governorship on the death of Governor Daniel K. Fowle in 1891.
Therefore, as residents take pride in the progress and growth of their county this year, they also are taking more pride in the governor's office. They watched and supported their native candidate through his campaign and gave to him the highest vote that has ever gone to an individual seeking an elective office in Alamance. They worked throughout the state in his behalf, and their influence was strong.
But the strongest influence of all was Kerr Scott himself and his "People's Platform."
CENTENNIAL HISTORY OF ALAMANCE COUNTY
Governor Scott served his state well in public office during eleven years as Commissioner of Agriculture, though he never had moved his residence from his farm home in the Hawfields section on Route 1, Haw River. In January of 1948, however, he pulled the first in a series of surprises that was to come in succeeding months when he told a Raleigh audience that he would not be a candidate to succeed himself as Commissioner of Agriculture. He had held the job long enough, he said, and he had made plans for sometime to return to his home in Alamance County where he would become a full-time man of the soil again.
It was but a few days, however, before Kerr Scott's name was being mentioned as a possible candidate for governor. R. Mayne Albright, a young World War II veteran and former director of the State Employment Service, was in the race, but it was generally conceded that Charles M. Johnson, state treasurer for sixteen years, certainly would be North Carolina's next governor. He had prepared for the office for sometime, and he was well liked.
When approached on the subject of his candidacy, Mr. Scott had no announcement to make. He had announced his plans, had been approached on the possibility of entering the gubernatorial race, bur he would not talk.
While he wouldn't talk himself, the tempo of conversations throughout the state in his behalf increased, and Mr. Scott listened intently to draw an accurate picture for a decision he was to make later.
When he saw that he must either enter the campaign or call off the speculation throughout the state on his possible candidacy, he told newsmen at his office in Raleigh that he would let "the home folks" tell him what to do-that what they said would be the decision.
He was referring to a testimonial dinner that had been arranged by his home county residents in the Alamance Hotel in Burlington, recognizing him for his long service to the state in the position of Commissioner of Agriculture. He would feel the crowd out at that meeting. Then would come the decision.
The dinner, though it was planned to recognize him for his service in the past, turned into a rally for Scott for Governor. The
tempo was not too strong, but everyone in the ballroom of the hotel was waiting patiently for Scott to make an announcement.
When he was called upon to talk, he expressed his appreciation of the thoughtfulness and kindness shown to him. Then he made one of the first home-spun remarks that were to become so well known later.
"I can't decide for myself," he said. "They tell me that the governor's office is pretty well sewed up for the next term. I always have been told, however, that if a person doesn't particularly like the way something is sewed up, all he has to do Is to rip it open and sew it up again the way he wants it,''
A committee was appointed, with B. Everett Jordan of Saxapahaw as Chairman, to investigate the possibilities throughout the state and report back to Mr. Scott, and he then would make his final decision.
The eyes of the state were turned to Burlington and Alamance County on the morning of February 6 when, it was learned, Mr. Scott would announce his plans. He did at 11:30 o'clock in a two-paragraph statement, in which he said that he would enter the race. There wasn't anything colorful or dramatic about his announcement. He simply said that the chances looked all right to him, that he thought he was not too late in getting into the race, and that he thought the majority of the people in the state would go along with him.
And therewith started a fulfillment of another statement that he had made at the testimonial dinner. He had told his audience that he did not like the expression that he was too late in entering the campaign, should be decide to sling his farm hat into the ring.
"If I do enter," he said, "I can promise you one of the fightingest campaigns you ever saw."
And he lived up to that promise in the months ahead, traveling from one end of the state to another, making from one to three speeches a day along with several conferences and "get-acquainted" meetings. He spoke to all groups and classes. He liked the way the people accepted what he had to say.
When the first primary was held on May 2, 1948, Mr. Scott ran second to Charles M. Johnson in the race, with some 40,000
CENTENNIAL HISTORY OF ALAMANCE COUNTY
votes less, but Mr. Johnson did not have a majority vote. Mr. Scott's campaign headquarters in Raleigh immediately announced that a second primary would be requested.
There was hardly any let-up in the tempo with which the Alamance county citizen went among the people, working toward the voting date. He pointed out that the state was in need of better rural roads, that farms needed more electrification and telephones, and that he favored a liquor referendum for the state.
He was against the "gag rule" in the General Assembly, and his facts and figures on state funds drawing no interest drew more and more people to his side. When North Carolinians went to the polls on June 26 they selected W. Kerr Scott as their next governor with some 40,000 votes majority.
Governor Scott, as he spoke to well-wishers who greeted him at his home on the day following election, was no different from the man who announced in February that he would seek nomination. When he first announced his candidacy, he was confident that he could win, and his feeling on the day after victory was that of a man who had had a great load lifted from his shoulders. He had conducted a strenuous campaign.
He took a short vacation of a few days after his nomination, and then went into conferences and again to campaigning for the State Democratic ticket for general elections on November 2 when Tar Heels, following their tradition, voted overwhelmingly for the Democratic party.
Though W. Kerr Scott became Governor Scott, he still is regarded by the many friends in Alamance County as Kerr Scott the farmer and dairyman. Political fortunes have not changed his feeling toward his farm, his church and his friends at home. He has made arrangements for his farm to stay in production during his stay in Raleigh, and he returns almost every Sunday to the Hawfields Presbyterian church, where he attends the morning Sunday School and Worship Service. He is an elder of the church.
It was in Alamance county that Governor Scott entered public service. The son of Robert Walter Scott, of the Hawfields section who served in both houses of the Legislature and was a one-time unsuccessful candidate for State Commissioner of Agriculture, Kerr
was graduated from the old graded and high Hawfields schools, and in 1917 from A. and M. College, now N. C. State College, where he majored in Agriculture and was an honor student and athlete.
He assumed his first public position when he became Alamance County Agent in 1920, a position he held for 10 years. In 1930 he began a three-year term as master of the State Grange, after which he went with the Farm Credit Administration as organizer in the Southeastern states, an office he held until he decided to run for State Commissioner of Agriculture in 1936.
Not only is he the only elected governor to come from Alamance, but his campaign for the governorship leading to the primaries was the second shortest successful drive in the state's political history, and passed only by himself when he, on beginning his first campaign for Commissioner of Agriculture, entered the race only seven weeks before the votes were to be cast.
Elias Carr of Tarboro, who was elected governor in 1893, was the first farmer governor of the state, and no other farmer candidate of the state ever rose to seek the post until Governor Scott. Scott became the first candidate in the state's history to run second in the first primary and win in the second.
And he was the first candidate to win a gubernatorial race since the traditional East-West rotation plan was started who did not have an actual residential identity that could be considered Justly in either.
Mrs. Scott was Miss Mary Elizabeth White, also of the Hawfields section, and a schoolteacher before she and her childhood sweetheart were married in 1919. They have three children, Osborne, who manages the spacious farm; Robert, who is a premedical student at Duke University, and Mrs. A. J. Loudermilk of Akron, Ohio.
THOMAS MICHAEL HOLT
Residents of Alamance County also found much honor and pride in the year 1891 when Thomas Michael Holt assumed the duties of governor upon the death of Daniel G. Fowle. Never before had an Alamance County resident attained such high and
CENTENNIAL HISTORY OF ALAMANCE COUNTY
respected political goals and points of service as had Governor Holt at that time.
He was not an elected governor, but there was no question at the time his term expired but that he could have been elected had he chosen to overlook the advice of doctors and enter into a political campaign. He had given the State of North Carolina an outstanding administration during the two years he occupied the chief executive's chair, and he was respected and liked.
Governor Holt never found it hard to perform any type of duty that was given to him. He was sure of himself and what he could do, and he never entered into any type of business or political venture but that he met with success.
It was not hard for Governor Holt to rise to prominence in the state, although he appeared destined in early life for a career in business rather than in public office.
Born July 15, 1831, in a part of Orange County that later became Alamance County, he was the son of Edwin M. Holt, prominent manufacturer, and Mrs. Emily Farish Holt.
He was educated at home mostly by his talented parents and then was sent to the Caldwell Institute in Hillsboro, a preparatory school, which was to qualify him for entrance into the University of North Carolina. He finished his training at the Hillsboro school and joined the sophomore class at the University in 1849.
Edwin M. Holt, Governor Holt's father, had a tremendous influence upon his son and taught him early in life the meaning of thrift, good business methods, and sound administrative practices. The father had become proficient in all of these phases of business himself, and wanted his children to be prepared to cake care of themselves when they grew older.
It was because of the father's sound belief in business experience that he approved when Thomas decided not to return to the University after his only year, choosing, instead, to go to Philadelphia, where he was employed in a large department store. It was there, he felt, that he could meet all kinds of people, could learn much in salesmanship, and could get a taste of independent livelihood.
Governor Thomas M. Holt of Alamance County is interred beside this monument in Linwood Cemetery, Graham.
CENTENNIAL HISTORY OF ALAMANCE COUNTY
Thomas left Philadelphia in 1851 and became associated with his father's mill at Alamance. He was to remain in the business as a student and aide for ten years.
The training which Thomas received prepared him for greater responsibility to his community, and he soon began taking an extensive interest in public affairs. He became a county magistrate and commissioner, positions which he held with much dignity and keen understanding. He entered the race for the State Senate in 1876 and won. He returned to political campaigning in 1882, seeking a seat in the State House of Representatives and won. He was re-elected to the House in 1884 and 1886, and in 1884 he was named Speaker of the House.
In 1888 he was elected lieutenant governor of the state, leading the ticket in practically every section, and when Governor Fowle died in April of 1891, Lieutenant-Governor Holt was immediately sworn into office until the expiration of his term in 1893.
"Before the expiration of his term as governor, the hand of insidious and fatal disease had been laid upon him, and the severe strain of official responsibility told upon his already impaired vitality. The remaining years of his life were spent in attending, as far as failing health permitted, to his large and varied business interests. His disease baffled the skill of his physicians, and gained such headway that in January, 1896, it was seen that the end was near. At last acute pneumonia set in, and after a few days of intense suffering he passed away on April II, 1896."*
After returning to Alamance County in 185l, he had married Miss Louisa Moore, who, with two sons and three daughters, survived him.
"Among the important measures which he largely aided in securing may be mentioned the establishment in 1876 of the new system of county government; the building of the Western North Carolina and of the Cape Fear and Yadkin Valley railroads; the establishment of the Department of Agriculture; also the inauguration of a scheme which has resulted in the establishment of three
* Ashe, Samuel A'Court, Biographical History of N. C., v. 7.
great industrial schools, the Agricultural and Mechanical College at Raleigh,* and the two state colleges at Greensboro. He gave his influence to increased appropriations for the common schools of the state, to the University, to the state hospitals at Morganton, Raleigh and Goldsboro, and to the Orphans' Home at Oxford; and he advocated the institution for the deaf mutes established at Morganton ...
"Honored in life, he was honored in his burial as few men in our state have been honored. The presence of the Governor of the State and his staff, of representatives of the faculty of the University of North Carolina; of sixteen ministers of the gospel, representing seven denominations; of many distinguished citizens from distant parts of the state; of a vast throng gathered from town and county, from far and wide, and representing every class of citizenship-all this, together with the brooding sadness, silent and tearful, of that great multitude, were indications of the esteem in which he was held by the people whom he loved and for whom he labored."1
* Now State College, Raleigh.
1. Ashe, 0p. Cit.