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Lecture Addresses Sanford's Influence

Lecture Addresses Sanford's Influence

UNC alumnus John Drescher, of Columbia, S.C.'s The State, discussed the political life and accomplishments of former N.C. Gov. Terry Sanford.

Drescher, a former editor of The Daily Tar Heel, spoke in the James M. Johnston Center for Undergraduate Excellence as part of the "Tuesdays with Friday" lecture series organized by former UNC-system President Bill Friday.

Drescher focused on Sanford's successful gubernatorial campaign in 1960 against pro-segregation Democratic candidate I. Beverly Lake, the father of the recently elected N.C. Supreme Court chief justice.

The 1960 election is the topic of his recently published book, "The Triumph of Good Will: How Terry Sanford Beat a Champion of Segregation and Reshaped the South."

Drescher said he was inspired to write the book after hearing Sanford speak about his campaign.

"I heard Terry Sanford talk about his 1960 campaign for governor, and I realized what a turning point it was for the South -- what a pivotal race it was for North Carolina," he said.

Drescher said he is increasingly intrigued as to why North Carolina set a precedent by electing a pro-integration candidate during the 1960s when predominantly segregationalist governors were being elected elsewhere in the South.

Part of the answer to this question, Drescher said, is Sanford's "enormous personal ambition," and his "tough guy" persona in the political arena, which drove him to do whatever it took to win.

"I think he saw that he could make a difference more as a governor than in any other place in the state," Drescher said.

Another factor that helped Sanford garner voter support was Sanford's flare for political activism and the sense of social awareness that he gained from his parents and his years at UNC in the 1930s, Drescher said.

"At this University he opened his eyes and saw a different way of life, different from his own," Drescher said. "He saw the plight of the mill, textile and migrant workers -- he saw that blacks and women did not have the same opportunities that he had as a white male. He began to feel strongly about giving equal opportunities to all people."

Drescher said Sanford was "a progressive action-oriented governor," whose style continues to influence Southern political personalities today.

"Terry Sanford gave birth to a brand of politics with an emphasis on education that has driven North Carolina Democrats for the last 40 years, and it was evident through the work of Jim Hunt -- and now through Mike Easley," he said.

"(Sanford) was the first 'New South' governor who redefined and influenced other Southern governors and is historic for all Southerners."

Drescher later hosted a book-signing in the Bull's Head bookshop, reading excerpts from his book that addressed the historic importance of the Sanford-Lake 1960 gubernatorial campaign.

Freshman Scott Jones, a political science major, said he came to hear Drescher speak because he had read his book. "I was impressed with how the author had handled the issue and how the politics of the 1960s influenced the politics of Jim Hunt and Mike Easley today."

Jones said he left the talk inspired. "The best thing (about Drescher's speech) is the stronger vision for politics that was defined," he said. "(Drescher) made it clear that Terry Sanford made some great improvements in education, and it shows how people and students today can make a similar difference."

The University Editor can be reached at udesk@unc.edu.

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