NC Rep Larry Brown, 1943-2012

by YES! Staff

What can we say about NC Rep. Larry Brown, who passed away last week in Pinehurst after a heart attack?

We can say that he served his country, first in the US Navy in the 1960s, then as a US postal worker and later as an alderman and mayor of Kernersville before being elected to the NC House.

We can say that he was active in his duties in Raleigh, sponsoring scores of bills — many of which we disagreed with but a few of which we approved. He was an ardent foe of annexation, as befits a man from Kernersville, a small town stuck between the biggest cities of the Triad.

Brown was one of ours. He presided over Kernersville during a boom in the 1990s, a time, when, naturally, he was for annexation — at least as it pertained to the growth of his city.

He flipped his position when he was elected to statewide office, because that’s what politicians do.

And Larry Brown was a politician, make no mistake, staking out ground he though  popular enough to get — and keep — him elected. He will probably be remembered most for his recent takes on homosexuality. He felt that the state should cut off healthcare funding to people with HIV, saying  to the Winston-Salem Journal, “I don’t condone spending taxpayers’ money to help people living in perverted lifestyles.”

He flipped his position when he was elected to statewide office, because that’s what politicians do.

And in 2010 he sent off a notorious e-mail about an event held by Equality North Carolina, a gay-rights group, to honor then-House Speaker Joe Hackney using the word “queers” and insinuating that some of his colleagues in the General Assembly were “fruitloops.”

A month later, Brown’s party would take control of both houses of the state legislature for the first time since 1870. And then his party’s Marriage Amendment passed in this year’s primary in May.

So another thing we can say about his is that Brown was not entirely out of touch with North Carolinians.

But we can so say with confidence that Brown is one of a vanishing breed in this state: old-guard politicians who embrace the past as they fear what is to come in North Carolina.

Our metropolitan centers are growing as our population shifts to the cities. The demographic is changing, as well, with new faces transplanting from all over the country and the world. NC has the fastest-growing Latino population in the United States. And the economy is moving — somewhat painfully — from its industrial and agricultural base towards digital and technological businesses that require a more educated workforce than we currently have.

The arc of time in North Carolina bends away from Larry Brown and his cohort, who play on the politics of conflict and the fear of inevitable change. And though his passing does not exactly denote the end of an era, it perhaps signifies the beginnings of the next one.

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