About James Terry Sanford
James Terry Sanford (August 20, 1917 – April 18, 1998) was a United States politician and educator from North Carolina. A member of the Democratic Party, Sanford was the 65th Governor of North Carolina (1961–1965), a two-time U.S. Presidential candidate in the 1970s and a U.S. Senator (1986–1993). Sanford was a strong proponent of public education and introduced a number of reforms and new programs in North Carolina's schools and institutions of higher education as the state's governor, increasing funding for education and establishing the North Carolina Fund. From 1969 to 1985, Sanford was President of Duke University.
An Eagle Scout as a youth, Sanford became an FBI agent after graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1939. During World War II, he saw combat in the European Theatre and received a battlefield commission. Following his return to civilian life after World War II, Sanford attended and graduated from the University of North Carolina School of Law and began a legal career in the late 1940s, soon becoming involved in politics. A lifelong Democrat, he was noted for his progressive leadership in civil rights and education; although his opponents criticized him as a "tax-and-spend" liberal, Sanford is remembered as a major public figure of the South after World War II.
Sanford was born in Laurinburg, North Carolina, in 1917 to Cecil and Elizabeth Sanford, both of English descent. He became an Eagle Scout in Laurinburg's Troop 20 of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA). Shortly before he died, Sanford related his Scouting experience to journalist David Gergen and said that it "probably saved my life in the war. Boys who had been Scouts or had been in the CCC knew how to look after themselves in the woods. ... What I learned in Scouts sustained me all my life; it helped me make decisions about what was best." The BSA recognized him with their Distinguished Eagle Scout Award.
Sanford graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1939 and then served as a special agent in the FBI for two years. He married Margaret Rose Knight on July 4, 1942, and later had two children with her, Terry Jr. and Elizabeth. During World War II, he enlisted as a private in the US Army and later attained the rank of First Lieutenant. He parachuted into France with the 517th Parachute Infantry Regiment and subsequently fought in the Battle of the Bulge. He was awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart for his bravery and wounds, respectively. Sanford was honorably discharged in 1946. Sanford later served as a company commander with the rank of captain in Company K of 119th Infantry Regiment of the North Carolina Army National Guard from 1948 to 1960. After the war, Sanford earned a law degree from the University of North Carolina School of Law and served as President of the Young Democratic Clubs of North Carolina, now known as the Young Democrats of North Carolina.
Sanford was an assistant director of the Institute of Government of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill from 1946 until 1948, then began a private practice of law in Fayetteville. As a Democrat, Sanford served one term as a state senator (1953–55), and chose not to run for a second term. He ran for governor of North Carolina in 1960, defeating I. Beverly Lake, Sr., Malcolm Buie Seawell, and John D. Larkins in the Democratic primary, and Robert Gavin in the general election. Elected to a single term (as North Carolina governors could not at that time be elected for more than one term), Sanford served from January 1961 through January 1965.
Driven by his belief that a person could accomplish anything with a good education. Sanford nearly doubled North Carolina's expenditures on public schools. He began consolidating the University of North Carolina system to ensure its solvency and strength and oversaw the creation of the North Carolina Community College System. He conceived the idea for the Governor's School of North Carolina, a publicly funded six-week residential summer program for gifted high school students in the state. He established the North Carolina School of the Arts (now University of North Carolina School of the Arts) to keep talented students "in the fields of music, drama, the dance and allied performing arts, at both the high school and college levels of instruction" in their home state. He fought for racial desegregation, and even sent his son to a desegregated public school at a time when such a position was politically unpopular and possibly dangerous. He also established the North Carolina Fund under the leadership of George Esser to fight poverty and promote racial equality across the state. Controversial tax increases were made to finance these educational programs. One such tax, on food, roused much opposition and was decried as regressive by many, including by some of the governor's most loyal supporters. The food tax, nicknamed "Terry's Tax", and other taxes implemented by Sanford diminished his popularity and were heavily criticized by his political opponents.
Governor Sanford was a close political ally of President John F. Kennedy, a fact that disturbed some North Carolina Democrats who were suspicious of Kennedy's Catholicism. According to President Kennedy's personal secretary Evelyn Lincoln, Sanford would have been Kennedy's choice for vice president on the 1964 Democratic ticket, had Kennedy lived. In her 1968 book Kennedy and Johnson she reported that President Kennedy told her that Lyndon B. Johnson would be replaced as Vice President. Lincoln wrote of that November 19, 1963, conversation just three days before Kennedy's assassination:[
As Mr. Kennedy sat in the rocker in my office, his head resting on its back he placed his left leg across his right knee. He rocked slightly as he talked. In a slow pensive voice he said to me, 'You know if I am re-elected in sixty-four, I am going to spend more and more time toward making government service an honorable career. I would like to tailor the executive and legislative branches of government so that they can keep up with the tremendous strides and progress being made in other fields ... I am going to advocate changing some of the outmoded rules and regulations in the Congress, such as the seniority rule. To do this I will need as a running mate in sixty-four a man who believes as I do.' ... I was fascinated by this conversation and wrote it down verbatim in my diary. Now I asked, ... 'Who is your choice as a running-mate?' He looked straight ahead, and without hesitating he replied, 'At this time I am thinking about Governor Terry Sanford of North Carolina. But it will not be Lyndon.'
Additionally, Sanford used his leverage with the White House to further expand the Research Triangle Park (RTP), which sparked an economic surge in the state, eventually luring IBM and the United States Environmental Protection Agency to the Triangle area.
Sanford was also a staunch opponent of capital punishment. His "numerous statements against capital punishment were so well known that prisoners on North Carolina’s death row pointedly referred to them in their clemency appeals."
After his term in office ended, Sanford opened a law firm. He had agreed to serve as Lyndon Johnson's campaign manager in 1968 just before Johnson's withdrawal on March 31, but later took over as the campaign manager for the Democratic nominee Hubert Humphrey in his race against Republican Richard Nixon for the presidency. President Johnson wanted Humphrey to pick Sanford as his running mate. On one occasion, the Humphrey campaign asked Sanford if he wanted to be the vice presidential candidate. Sanford declined and Humphrey ultimately picked Senator Edmund Muskie of Maine. Though Sanford received a number of legal and business offers from the private sector during this period, he was interested in a position that would allow him to keep his political prospects open.
President of Duke University
In 1969, Sanford became president of Duke University, a position he held for the next sixteen years. While involved in nearly every aspect of the university, Sanford primarily focused on fund-raising, athletics, and relations with university trustees. He also maintained a policy of accessibility to the students that helped defuse racial tensions. This approach helped quell student unrest over the Vietnam War early in his tenure as university president. Addressing the protests with a mixture of tolerance and determination to maintain control of the campus, he met with students and successfully avoided the campus shutdowns that plagued many of the nation's other college campuses at the time. Shortly before his tenure, on February 13, 1969, 60 student members of the Afro-American Society had occupied Duke's main administration center, the Allen Building, demanding the creation of a Black Studies program. After three days of clashes with police, they left the building peaceably February 16 when school officials agreed to the program.
Perhaps the greatest controversy of Sanford's presidency was his effort to establish the presidential library of former U.S. President Richard Nixon at Duke. Sanford raised the subject with Nixon during a visit to the former president at Nixon's New York City office on July 28, 1981. Sanford continued to seek Nixon's advice on multiple issues within the months that followed. The library proposal became public in mid-August, creating considerable controversy at the university. Though Sanford enjoyed some support for his effort, most of the faculty were against the proposal, the largest concern being that the facility would be a monument to Nixon rather than a center of study. Sanford tried to engineer a compromise, but the proposal by the Duke Academic Council of a library only one-third the size of that which Nixon wanted and their rejection of a Nixon museum to accompany it, ultimately led Nixon to decline Sanford's offer and instead site his library in the city of his birth, Yorba Linda, California, where it was dedicated in 1990.
Campaigns for the Democratic presidential nomination
Though Sanford enjoyed his time as Duke's president, he still harbored political ambitions. As the 1972 presidential primary season began, he was approached by several people who felt that the field of Democratic candidates was weak. He was particularly keen to challenge Alabama governor George Wallace in an effort to show that Wallace's segregationist views did not represent Southern opinion. Announcing his candidacy on March 8, he faced long odds in a crowded field. Knowing that he could not win a majority of delegates in the primary, he hoped to secure enough to emerge as a compromise candidate in a deadlocked convention. Even in the North Carolina primary, however, Wallace beat Sanford by 100,000 votes, and Sanford managed only a fifth-place finish at the 1972 Democratic National Convention with 77.5 votes, behind George McGovern (1,864.95), Henry Jackson (525), Wallace (381.7), and Shirley Chisholm (151.95).
Undeterred, Sanford began preparations two years later for a run for the 1976 Democratic presidential nomination. Announcing his candidacy on June 1, 1975, he juggled campaign appearances with his obligations as president of Duke. While he developed a following among educators, he did not have a satisfactory campaign theme by the new year. Then, while campaigning in Massachusetts in January, he suffered sharp pains and was diagnosed with a heart murmur. On January 25, Sanford withdrew from the primaries, the first Democrat to do so that year.
After retiring as president of Duke University in 1985, Sanford remained active in party politics. He made an unsuccessful run for chairman of the Democratic National Committee in 1985, in which he was supported by future House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Sanford lost to Paul G. Kirk by a vote of 203–150.
After failing to find a Democrat willing to run for the Senate seat being vacated by Republican John P. East, Sanford announced his own candidacy for the nomination. His opponent was Congressman Jim Broyhill. After East committed suicide on June 29, 1986, Broyhill was temporarily appointed to the seat on July 3, until a special election could be held on November 4. Despite being attacked as a liberal, Sanford defeated Broyhill by three percentage points in the November election. Critics of Sanford primarily focused on three areas: his promotion of opportunities for minorities, "tax-and-spend" education funding, and his anti-poverty campaign. He took office on November 5, the day after the special election, to serve out the last two months of East's term and the subsequent six-year term.
Sanford found his years in the Senate frustrating. He was concerned about the runaway deficit spending of the era, and he pursued economic development for Central America as an alternative to Republican-driven military policies. He led the Duke-based International Commission for Central American Recovery and Development, a task force of scholars and leaders that published Poverty, Conflict, and Hope: A Turning Point in Central America (also known as the Sanford Commission Report since he was "the principal catalyst of the commission's work") in 1989 with the principles for promoting peace, democracy and equitable development in Central America. Sanford served on multiple Senate committees: Select Committee on Ethics (Chair); Special Committee on Aging; Budget; Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs including the Subcommittee on International Finance and Monetary Policy and Subcommittee on Securities; and Foreign Relations including Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs (Chair), Subcommittee on African Affairs, and Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere and Peace Corps Affairs. He had a liberal voting record in comparison to his Democratic colleagues from the South, and he campaigned successfully against the passage of a constitutional amendment prohibiting flag-burning with a counter-campaign promoting the United States Bill of Rights. Yet Sanford thought his accomplishments in the Senate paled against those he made as governor, and he seriously contemplated retiring and pursuing other projects before deciding to run for reelection.
Sanford's opponent in the 1992 election was Lauch Faircloth, a former Democrat turned Republican who had served as state Highway Commissioner in Sanford's gubernatorial administration. Enjoying substantial backing from Sanford's Senate colleague, Jesse Helms, Faircloth accused Sanford of being a tax-and-spend liberal bound to special interests. While initial polls showed that Sanford had a comfortable lead over his rival, he lost supporters after an operation for an infected heart valve kept him from campaigning for much of October and raised doubts as to whether he was capable of serving another term. On November 3, 1992, Faircloth won the election by a 100,000-vote margin.
Sanford wrote several books, including: But What About the People?, where he describes his efforts during the 1960s to establish a system of quality public education in North Carolina; Storm Over the States, where he lays forth a new groundwork for state government and the federal system by recommending a "creative federalism"; and Outlive Your Enemies: Grow Old Gracefully, where he describes actions that will slow the aging process and rules for prolonging healthy life. He also taught classes in law and political science at Duke University and campaigned for the construction of a major performing arts center in the Research Triangle area that would provide a permanent home for the American Dance Festival, the North Carolina Symphony and the Carolina Ballet.
Sanford announced in late December 1997 that he had been diagnosed with inoperable esophageal cancer and that his doctors said he had a few months to live. After his release from the hospital, his condition slowly deteriorated. He died in his sleep while surrounded by his family at his Durham home. He was 80 years old. At his funeral, he was eulogized by a childhood friend who said Sanford "took [the Boy Scout] oath when he was twelve years old and kept it. It started out, 'On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country,' and included such things as 'help other people at all times.' He believed it. He was the eternal Boy Scout." Sanford is entombed in the crypt of Duke University Chapel.
Sanford was a major public figure of the post-World War II South. He played a key role in the transformation of Southern politics into the New South, primarily in the areas of race relations and education. In recognition of his efforts in education and in countless other areas, a 1981 Harvard University survey named him one of the 10 best governors of the 20th century.
The Terry Sanford Federal Building and Courthouse in Raleigh, the state capital, is named after Sanford. President Bill Clinton said in a statement issued from the Summit of the Americas in Santiago, Chile: "His work and his influence literally changed the face and future of the South, making him one of the most influential Americans of the last 50 years." John Edwards said in Terry Sanford and the New South that Sanford was his political hero.
Duke University has since established an undergraduate and graduate school (formerly institute) in public policy called the Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy. Fayetteville High School, in Fayetteville, North Carolina, was renamed Terry Sanford High School in his honor in 1968.