cratic candidate Carter made a confusing statement about a proposed cut in defense spending and repeal of the right-to-work law, Helms sounded off again. Carter, her said, is "like the Cheshire cat--whenever you try to get a straight answer our of him or pin him down to something factual. everything disappears but the grin."
That turned out to be prophetic about the Georgia governor. Jimmy Carter won the 1976 election, but failed against Helms's candidate four year later.
On a blustery day in January 1977 Jim Hunt, the farm boy from Rock Ridge, set several precedents as he was sworn in as North Carolina's ninety- sixth governor.
Dressed in a business suit instead of the usual formal wear, he walked the two blocks from the gingerbread Governor's Mansion to Bicentenial Square, where the outdoor inaugural ceremonies were being held for the first time. When it came time for his inaugural address, the new governor delivered a 450-word oration, the shortest on record, written by himself. In it he quoted John White, governor of Sir Walter Raleigh's second Roanoke Island colony, and paraphrased Charles B. Aycock, the state's famed "Education Governor"( 1901-4).
That night at an inaugural ball featuring actor Andy Griffith, the Grandfather Mountain Cloggers, and the North Carolina Symphony, two thousand guest attended along with eight thousand spectators at North Carolina State University's Reynolds Coliseum. The fare was turkey sandwiches ham biscuits, cheese straws, and pastries but no champagne or hard drinks. The new governor and his wife danced briefly (a waltz); this, however, was to be no traditional debutante-style affair. "The Governor wants this ball to be one for all the people rather than just for the socially and politically prominent," a ball official said.
A newspaper reporter described the affair as " Carter country chic with a taste of courtly Camelot." Another identified the evening's beverage as a "wretchedly sweet potion called Meirs Sparkling Catawba grape juice." The celebration continued until a late hour.