|Name||Thaddeus A. Eure|
, North Carolina , United States
|| November 15, 1899
|| July 21, 1993
Jan 09, 2010 07:44pm
|Info||Defeated NC Secretary of State Stacey W. Wade in the 1936 Democratic primary using the slogan "Give a young man a chance," then served as Secretary of State from 1936 until 1989. |
[From the Raleigh News and Observer]
Venerable Thad Eure Dies
(BY TREVA JONES)
Former N.C. Secretary of State Thad Eure, the nation's longest-serving state official when he retired in 1989 after a half-century on the job, died Wednesday night in Raleigh.
Mr. Eure, 93, died at Raleigh Community Hospital about 8 p.m, after surgery to remove his gall bladder.
`He got through the operations beautifully' but never quite stabilized, said his daughter, Armecia Eure Black.
Funeral and burial will be Saturday in Raleigh.
Famous for oversize, red bow ties and for the straw boaters he wore every summer, Mr. Eure took office in 1936 after imploring voters to `Give a young man a chance.' In his later years, he hoped to survive until 2000 so he could have lived in three centuries. He figured he signed his name 625,000 times on state documents and correspondence, using an estimated five gallons of his trademark green ink.
And he said he was glad he retired when he did. `Thank God I wasn't voted out, kicked out, or carried out.' Mr. Eure told well-wishers at his 93rd birthday
party in November.
`I think this state will always have a part of Thad Eure in it,' said Gov. Jim Hunt, who credited Mr. Eure with exciting his own interest in politics in the mid-1950s.
`He believed in young people, believed in springtime, when you put on a straw hat, and being excited about the future and excited about what we can do.'
John Dombolis, who owns the Mecca Restaurant in downtown Raleigh and knew Mr. Eure for 40 years, said, `he was an exemplary person, and he served the state with great honor and with great dignity.'
John Dombolis said Mr. Eure would come into the restaurant and order a small hamburger, which wasn't on the menu. For him, they made small hamburgers, while Mr. Eure chatted with customers at the counter and in the booths along the wall.
`I think he mostly wanted to come in and see everybody,' said Mr. Dombolis' wife, Floye, who also works in the restaurant.
Born in 1899, Mr. Eure said he was `the oldest rat in the Democratic barn,' a title bestowed on him by U.S. District Judge John D. Larkins Jr. sometime after the middle of the century. At a retirement party for him in 1988, Republican Gov. Jim Martin called Mr. Eure `one of North Carolina's great treasures.' Even then-President Reagan acknowledged Mr. Eure's record of service.
Also known as `Mr. Democrat,' Mr. Eure was fond of saying that he was `nursed from a Democratic breast and rocked in a Democratic cradle.' Republicans were anathema to him, although he served alongside two Republican governors in his time, and many Republicans as well as Democrats sought his advice.
`Voting for the man instead of the party is nothing but hogwash,' said Mr. Eure, adding that `the political facts of life of American government are that it is run through the medium of parties instead of individuals.'
He had a craggy, deeply grooved face and a rich, booming voice and likely was one of the last true orators in the state.
Mr. Eure wouldn't have been upset if a public address system failed just before he was to speak. He could talk to a group of a few thousand people without the aid of a microphone and be heard in the last row.
Wherever he went, Mr. Eure shook hands, patted backs, kissed babies, hugged women, and reminded people that he would be up for re-election next time around.
As secretary of state, Mr. Eure was the keeper of many state and corporate records.
When he retired, he said he was `going to go back home where I've outlived all my enemies and start wearing out a rocking chair.' He didn't. He stayed in Raleigh.
In the 1980s, when Mr. Eure's vision got too poor for him to drive, Mr. Martin directed security officers to transport him between his home and his office, and to other Raleigh locations where the secretary of state needed to go on business. Mr. Eure didn't surrender his driver's license until 1986, and only then because he couldn't read on a vision test machine. About 70 people gathered in the old House chambers in the State Capitol on Nov. 15, 1992, to wish Mr. Eure a happy 93rd birthday.
`The reason more people aren't here tonight is because my friends have long passed away and I'm still here,' Mr. Eure joked. He and his wife, Minta Banks Eure, celebrated their 68th wedding anniversary on the same day as his birthday party.
Mrs. Eure spent part of the day Wednesday at the hospital with her husband.
Mr. Eure, named Thaddeus Armie Eure, was born in Gates County, the son of Tazewell A. and Armecia Langston Eure. He grew up on a cotton and peanut farm.
He attended Gatesville High School from 1913 until 1917, and the University of North Carolina from 1917 until 1919. He earned money for college by cutting students' hair for 25 cents, and selling them suits for $18. He was a private during World War I.
He went to law school at UNC from 1921 until 1922, and was admitted to the State Bar in 1922.
From 1923 until 1931, he was county attorney for Hertford County, and mayor of Winton from 1923 until 1928, Mr. Eure represented Hertford County in the state House of Representatives in 1929 and was Principal Clerk of the House during the sessions of 1931, 1933 and 1935, as well as an extra legislative session in 1936.
When the legislature wasn't in session, he was an escheats agent for UNC. He moved across the state making contacts. It paid off when he ran for secretary of state, beating the incumbent in a second primary.
He was elected secretary of state on Nov. 3, 1936, and when the incumbent, resigned, he assumed office Dec. 21, 1936, 10 days before the term was supposed to begin.
He was re-elected every four years from then until 1984. He retired in January 1989, the day his successor took office.
The Eures were married Nov. 15, 1924, and had two children: Armecia Eure Black and Thad Eure Jr. Their son died of cancer in November 1988.
Mr. Eure always maintained his legal voting residence in Hertford
County, and he remained a member of Eure Christian Church in the town of Eure, named for his family.
In biographical data sheets he sent routinely to The News & Observer, Mr. Eure listed his business address as State Capitol, Raleigh.
During the time he was secretary of state, Mr. Eure kept his office in the Capitol, refusing more than one offer to move him to more modern, spacious quarters. He bragged that his door was always open, and he delighted in dropping whatever he was doing to steer a group of schoolchildren through the historic building.
Ironically, when he retired, the space was turned over to Lt. Gov. Jim Gardner, a Republican, and only a ceremonial office for the secretary of state was maintained in the Capitol.
During his tenure, Mr. Eure saw the state take over the jobs of providing public education and of building roads, he saw the consolidation of the state universities into one system and the establishment of community colleges across the state. He survived criticism for his longtime practice of hiring only unmarried Democratic women to work in his office, and for writing the later-infamous state Speaker Ban Law, which attempted to prohibit Communists from speaking on any state-owned college campus. He was criticized as one of several members of the Council of State who advocated closed meetings of the council.
But the venerable politician drew more kudos than catcalls during his tenure.
He was given public service and merit awards from the N.C. Citizens for Business and Industry, N.C. State University, the N.C. State Elks Association, Elon College, Theta Chi fraternity and other organizations. In 1958, he received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Elon College. He served on the Elon College Board of Trustees 33 years, until he retired as chairman in 1988.
Surviving Mr. Eure, in addition to his daughter and his wife, are a brother, Dr. Darden J. Eure of Morehead City; a sister, Mrs. Donald S. Coeyman of Greensboro; four grandsons; three granddaughters, and four great-grandchildren.