Scott Followed Family Into Politics, Served in Turbulent Times

Bob Scott, who received an honorary degree from UNC in 1970, had two family businesses: dairy farming and politics.

“My dad had a fondness for saying that a man could never really expect to go to heaven unless he was a Democrat, a Presbyterian and owned a Jersey cow,” The News & Observer recalled the native of Alamance County saying once. “For a long time, I kept a few Jerseys around just for a safeguard.”

Scott’s father was Kerr Scott, former state agriculture commissioner, governor and U.S. senator. Bob Scott followed him and other family members into politics, serving as governor from 1969 to 1973. He died Jan. 23 at age 79.

“Gov. Scott devoted his life to public service,” Gov. Beverly Perdue said in a statement. “He always believed that North Carolina could be a better place, with wider doors of opportunity for all our people, and he worked to make it so.”

Scott served during a time of social unrest, including opposition to racial integration of public schools and protests against the Vietnam War. He sometimes used state troopers or members of the National Guard to maintain order on college campuses, such as the food workers strike at UNC in 1969. His most difficult time occurred in May 1969, when racial violence erupted at N.C. A&T State University in Greensboro. A National Guardsman, five Greensboro police officers and two students were injured, and one student was killed.

“I think the great story of North Carolina during the period of the early 1960s on through 1971 and [1972] is what did not happen in North Carolina,” he told an interviewer years later. “We had some racial tensions. We had some burnings. We had to call out the National Guard a few times … [but] nothing really bad – of a holocaust-type thing that some other states incurred.”

His term as governor also was when the state’s public universities were unified into the current UNC System. The system previously included the campuses in Chapel Hill, Raleigh, Greensboro, Wilmington and Asheville. He appointed a commission to study the issues involved in adding more campuses and to decide which schools would become part of that system.

Scott also raised the gasoline tax to build roads, pushed through the first state tax on cigarettes and started the first pilot kindergarten programs.

After leaving the governorship, Scott was appointed by President Jimmy Carter as federal co-chairman of the Appalachian Regional Commission, a federally funded agency designed to help mountain counties.

Scott became president of the community college system in 1983, a post he would hold for 11 years before he retired.

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