Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Passing scene: 'The hub and the bub' in Raleigh

When he was in the General Assembly, J.J. "Monk" Harrington of Bertie County was one of those old-time Eastern N.C. politicians who made Raleigh such an interesting place to cover in the 1970s and 80s. His nephew Greg Lovins, an official at Appalachian State University, reports he died overnight. He'll be missed.

Harrington retired from the legislature years ago and I ran into him the next year when he visited Raleigh. I wrote the following somewhere along the way:

"Sen. J.J. "Monk" Harrington from Bertie County had shoulders a yard wide, an impressive pompadour and a white miniature poodle named Pierre. One day after he had retired he dropped by the legislature and remarked that he missed 'the hub and the bub' of the place.

"Me too. The hub and the bub ain't what it was, now that unusual nicknames have become unfashionable. We need to do something about this. If anyone has a good idea for nicknames for the current crop of politicians - Mike Easley, Beverly Perdue, Jim Black and so on - send 'em along. This crowd needs help."

I loved the kinds of expressions that Harrington came up with. Harrington represented a section of the state that long enjoyed political power -- still does in a lot of ways. He worried that urban legislators would amass more power after the Supreme Court's one person, one vote ruling that led to more frequent redistricting.

Our man John Drescher, then an Observer Raleigh correspondent and now editor of the News and Observer, reported in 1989:

"J.J. "Monk" Harrington remembers well the dark days when he feared the
city boys were going to take over the N.C. legislature.

"It was 1964. The U.S. Supreme Court said each person must be represented
equally in the legislature; no more drawn districts based as much on acreage
as on population.

"'They said trees didn`t have any more voting power, that land didn`t have
any more voting power,' said the lanky Harrington, 69, a former legislator
from Bertie County in northeastern North Carolina. "We boys from the rural
areas were scared the urban boys were going to frame up on us."

Harrington's newphew Greg Lovins, Interim Vice Chancellor for Business Affairs at Appalachian State, said that Harrington was 89 when he died overnight in Lewiston-Woodville. "He had been in failing health for the last few years but, as we sometimes say here in the South, "his mind was still good."

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Great Editorial! I wish we still had his leadership in 'The hub and the bub' in Raleigh. Mr. Harrington did much for our part of the state here in the Northeast.

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