James Baxter Hunt, Jr.

63rd Governor of the State of North Carolina - 1977 to 1985 and 1993 to 2001

Date Born: May 16, 1937

Date Died: TBD

Place Born: Greensboro, NC

Place Buried: TBD

Residence: Raleigh, NC

Occupation: Lawyer


James Baxter Hunt, Jr. was born on May 16, 1937 in Greensboro, NC, the son of James Baxter Hunt and Elsie Celia (Brame) Hunt. He is a graduate of North Carolina State College (now University) with a B.S. in agricultural education and a M.S. in agricultural economics. During his undergraduate career, Hunt was the second student to serve two terms as Student Body President of NC State. In 1964, he received a J.D. from the University of North Carolina School of Law. He went on to serve as the President of the Young Democratic Clubs of North Carolina, now known as the Young Democrats of North Carolina.

In 1958, James Baxter Hunt, Jr. married Carolyn Joyce Leonard, daughter of Carl Avery Leonard and Noma Lavon (Henderson) Leonard; they have four children.

From 1964 to 1966, James Baxter Hunt, Jr. served as a Ford Foundation economic advisor to Nepal. In 1968, he served as president of the state’s Young Democrats. In 1970, Gov. Robert Walter Scott appointed him to chair a commission to revise the state party’s rules.

In the 1972 general election, James Baxter Hunt, Jr. was elected by the people as the next Lieutenant Governor of North Carolina, and he served under Gov. James Eubert Holshouser, Jr.

In the 1976 general election, James Baxter Hunt, Jr. was elected by the people as the next Governor of North Carolina. In 1977 voters approved an amendment to the state constitution permitting the governor to serve two consecutive four-year terms. He was re-elected in 1980, and served two four-year terms from January 8, 1977 to January 5, 1985.

In 1984, James Baxter Hunt, Jr. lost a bitterly contested race for the U.S. Senate seat held by Jesse Helms, and left elective politics for several years. Out of office for the first time in twelve years, James Baxter Hunt, Jr. returned to the practice of law and spent more time on his Wilson County farm.

In the 1992 general election, James Baxter Hunt, Jr. was again elected by the people as the next Governor of North Caorlina. He again served two four-year terms from January 9, 1993 to January 6, 2001.

James Baxter Hunt, Jr. is currently a member of the law firm of Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice PLLC, in its Raleigh office.


James Baxter Hunt Jr. (born May 16, 1937) was a four-term Democratic governor of the U.S. state of North Carolina (1977–1985, and again from 1993–2001).

Hunt is a graduate of North Carolina State University, 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 Law.

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.

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, and 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.

Hunt was an early proponent of teaching standards and early childhood education, gaining national recognition for the Smart Start program for pre-kindergardeners. It is widely speculated that Hunt would have been 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.

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.

While some have criticized Hunt for over-spending during the economic boom of the late 1990s, which contributed to severe budget shortfalls in the early 2000s, he had a long record of energetic leadership in the area of economic development, funding a variety of initiatives that helped transform North Carolina's economy.

Hunt was 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.

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. State University in Raleigh. He also serves on the North Carolina Advisory Board of DonorsChoose.

James Baxter Hunt, Jr. is currently (2015) a member of the law firm of Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice PLLC, in its Raleigh office.


James Baxter Hunt, Jr. was born in Greensboro, NC. He grew up on a farm in Wilson County, where he and his wife now raise beef cattle. He received a bachelor's degree in agricultural education in 1959 and a master's in agricultural economics in 1962 from North Carolina State University. He earned a law degree from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill School of Law in 1964. From 1964 to 1966, he served as a Ford Foundation economic advisor to Nepal. He served as Lieutenant Governor from 1973 to 1977 and as governor from 1977 to 1985. Re-elected in 1992 and again in 1996, Governor Hunt served a historic fourth term. Smart Start, his nationally recognized early childhood initiative, helped North Carolina children get better child care, immunizations, and family services. A national leader on education issues, Governor Hunt's Excellent Schools Act of 1997 raised standards and pay for teachers. His Juvenile Justice Reform Act focused on tougher punishment and effective prevention. Governor Hunt also signed the most sweeping air quality bill in 1999. He was founding chair of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, which promotes excellence in teaching through voluntary board certification.

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