Party politics in North Carolina business
In this excerpt, Barrentine describes the role of party politics in North Carolina commercial life in the late 1960s. He registered as a Democrat on the advice of a mentor, but says he refuses to participate in partisan politics.
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with Richard Barentine, January 28, 1999. Interview I-0068. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Full Text of the Excerpt
A facility that I still have is the ability to work with the elected officials regardless of the party affiliation. I was very close to all the administrations since '69. I've known every governor since 1969 and have traveled with a number of the governors. I was on a plane with republican governor Holshouser, our first republican governor since Reconstruction. We crossed the Canadian border in the air, and Governor Holshouser said, “We have a democrat on the plane, and I think we'll just throw him off the plane.” You would need to know Governor Holshouser, to know that he had a good since of humor.
JM: He participated in our politics series, so yeah--.
RB: I was the democrat on the plane. That taught me a good lesson, too. Don't think that they don't know what your party affiliation is. They always do. To that point, in the late '60s -- in '69 -- the advice from my mentor was, “You're going to work for the Chamber of Commerce. You're going to work for a state that has not had a republican governor since Reconstruction. You need to be a registered democrat in the state of North Carolina.” He explained to me that a registered democrat in the state of North Carolina is a person who votes democratic on the local and state level and republican on the federal level.
JM: Even back then, that was his perspective?
RB: Even back then, yeah. “ Jim,” he said, “If you're going to be appointed to boards and commissions on a local level or on a state level, you're going to have to be a registered Democrat.” Of course, that was true until the republicans came in, but there was an understanding even then that, I mean, everybody can't be a republican all of a sudden. All of us who had been registered democrats for all these years, had served the state and local area very well. I was appointed even by the republican governor. That's a facility that I still maintain today. I do not participate in partisan politics. We work with whatever the voters give us to work with. It was very easy. The relationship with the state continues today. I serve on a variety of boards that I think are a part of my total professional personality. I separate some of those from my personal personality, but as I get nearer my retirement, I'm not sure you really can separate some of those things. I think what you do and the time you give away is all of who you are. [It is] not just professional.