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Saturday May 21st

NC Rep David Price leads by faith and scholarship

<p>David&nbsp;Price with his&nbsp;grandson Charles in London in August 2008. His son Michael is a professor in London. Photo courtesy of Michael Price.</p>
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David Price with his grandson Charles in London in August 2008. His son Michael is a professor in London. Photo courtesy of Michael Price.

“He loves to read newspapers so much; he will accumulate these huge towers of them, teetering precariously all over the living room,” said Price, now a senior psychology lecturer in England. “These include sections of papers that are months or years old but that he hasn’t gotten around to reading yet so he can’t bring himself to get rid of.”

The public knows Michael’s dad in starker terms — David Price, the Democratic representative for North Carolina’s 4th district for 25 years and a leading whip for the Iran Deal.

But Price said politics only interested him once he transferred to UNC as a Morehead-Cain Scholar in fall of 1959.

“Sputnik had gone up some years earlier, and there was a great emphasis on engineering,” he said. “But I discovered at Carolina that my true love was social sciences.”

Outside the classroom, sit-ins and theater-picketing convinced Price faith had a social role.

“That’s what MLK and other civil rights leaders were pointing out in a powerful way, that religion was not just about personal salvation and conduct but also the kind of society we wanted to live in,” he said.

Soon he joined the student legislature, where he said he narrowly passed a resolution asking that town merchants serve everyone.

His faith also won him supporters in the 1986 congressional election, said Pope “Mac” McCorkle, a Duke public policy professor. McCorkle met Price in 1981 while directing a panel at Duke that looked into presidential nomination reform. Price was a resident expert in political science.

“When David really hit stride first in the congressional campaign was when he started talking about (faith) as what propelled him in his politics,” he said.

McCorkle came to view Price as a scholar-statesman in the line of Woodrow Wilson and Daniel Patrick Moynihan, blending intellect and political progressivism. He also admired Price’s integrity.

“So many young people in my day and other days went after politics single-mindedly for their own ambition purposes,” he said.

But Price was an exception, McCorkle said.

Price spearheaded the Iran Deal, generating support in 2012, then leading the whip team early this summer.

“My main device over the years has been joint letters with colleagues, bipartisan letters initially, but increasingly Democrats alone,” he said.

The values behind the Iran Deal also apply to the Syrian refugee crisis, he said.

“There again you come to the importance of diplomacy and figuring out a way to stop the horrible conflicts in Syria and the region,” Price said.

He said the world community should collaborate to relieve suffering and displacement.

McCorkle said Washington hasn’t swayed Price from his ideals.

“His moral standards are incredibly high in terms of his own view of himself and proper conduct, and they haven’t been compromised in my view at all,” McCorkle said.

These standards inform his support of today’s domestic social movements.

“There are very strong currents underway that have to do with injustices that people have suffered and also a sense of outrage with what’s going on in politics,” Price said. “The attempts of the General Assembly in North Carolina to cut back on education, to deny people Medicaid coverage, to make it harder to vote — those are outrageous things.”

He said the civil rights movement taught him effective activism required collaboration among people of different faiths and backgrounds.

“I value a sense of unity, but I don’t want to purchase unity at all costs,” he said. “You need peace with justice as they say or justice and peace together.”

Recently, Price’s son and daughter flew in from England and California, respectively, to throw their parents a surprise birthday party at the Carolina Inn, McCorkle said. The representative and his wife, Lisa, both turned 75 — but Price said he’s not planning to retire any time soon.

state@dailytarheel.com


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