Kerr Scott, a mover and a doer, made his greatest contribution to his state as governor from 1949 to 1953. As a junior senator, he became frustrated with his lack of power and the slowness and complexity of the legislative process. As governor, he presided over the building of 14,810 miles of newly paved secondary roads that got the farmers “out of the mud” and allowed them to get their products to market more easily. The state built 8,000 new classrooms and 350 new lunchrooms, provided pay raises for teachers and $330 million for permanent improvements in the university system. Owing to his prodding, some 31,000 rural phones were installed and 150,000 electrical connections made. He helped develop a statewide school health program, and there were improvements in mental health, old age assistance, aid to dependent children, the construction of a state medical school, and the construction of new hospitals and nursing homes in areas not previously served. Scott produced the first real comprehensive plan for the conservation of water and natural resources and made significant prison reforms. Deep-water ports were completed in Wilmington and Morehead City, and Scott’s economic policies led to thirty-nine thousand new jobs. He accomplished all this with balanced budgets during his four years and only one tax increase. The populist Scott, despite his abrasive personality and sometimes autocratic leadership, had lifted up the most depressed people in the state and put North Carolina on the road to being a prosperous and progressive state. He appointed women to state positions in important numbers and also chose blacks for statewide positions. He worked hard for civility between the races and for improving black schools. Kerr Scot’s accomplishments rank him as one of the two or three most influential governors in the state’s history. He recognized the need for more and better state services and was the father of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party that produced Governors Terry Sanford and Jim Hunt.
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