Going Riding with the Scotts
Going riding with the Scotts
The death of former Gov. Robert Scott a few days ago brought back a flood of personal memories of events that first gave me an interest in politics and helped frame my political outlook.
Scott’s father was the first governor Guest columnist I ever met. In 1952 the Presbyterian Synod of North Carolina met on the campus of Davidson College in my hometown. It was a big event for us town boys because we were recruited to carry the suitcases for the delegates. It was a “nopay” job, but we could take tips. Let me put it this way: We could have taken tips if any had been offered. We learned that Presbyterian clergy and lay leaders express their appreciation to bag boys in non-monetary ways. When we found out that Gov. Kerr Scott was expected to attend, all the boys wanted to carry his bags. The competition to be the governor’s bag boy was settled by allowing all of us to greet the governor when he drove into the campus in a big black limousine. “Come on boys,” Gov. Kerr Scott called out to us, “you want to ride in my car?” The governor made room for some of us to join him in the limousine and then hopped out to make room for all of us to enjoy for just one moment the inside of the biggest car we had ever seen. It was years before I learned how Kerr Scott had challenged and defeated the traditional “old guard” that had controlled North Carolina state government for most of the first half of the 20 th century. I learned that lesson in 1964 when the US Army sent me to be a “spy” during maneuvers in the North Carolina Sandhills. My friend Watts Auman let me move in with his family on their farm just outside West End. I conducted my “spy” activities under the cover of being a farm helper. One of the first things I saw in the Auman’s house was a plug of chewing tobacco encased in plastic and sitting in a prominent place on the coffee table in their living room. “What in the world is that?” I asked. “That was Kerr Scott’s favorite chewing tobacco,” Watts’s mother explained. “Terry Sanford sent it to the key people in Kerr Scott’s campaign for the Senate.” Those few weeks in the Auman’s house I learned more about farming and politics than I did about “spying.” I learned how much struggling farmers appreciated the roads and services for them that Kerr Scott had pushed through while he was governor. That year, Clyde Auman, Watts’s dad, was campaigning for the NC House. House Speaker Clifton Blue gave up that seat to run for lieutenant governor. But Kerr Scott’s son Bob, a novice politician who had the benefit of his father’s organization and supporters, upset Blue in the Democratic primary. The Aumans were anxious for Bob Scott to make peace with the Blue supporters in Moore County before
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