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The Political Career of W. Kerr Scott: The Squire from Haw River

by Julian Pleasants

Availablepaperback$30.00s 978-0-8131-7755-7
Availablecloth$70.00x 978-0-8131-4677-5
New Directions in Southern History
414 pages  Pubdate: 07/23/2019  6 x 9  28 b&w photos

When W. Kerr Scott (1896–1958) began his campaign for the North Carolina gubernatorial seat in 1948, his opponents derided his candidacy as a farce. However, the plainspoken dairy farmer quickly gathered loyal supporters and mobilized a grassroots attack on the entrenched interests that had long controlled the state government, winning the race in a historic upset.

In this meticulously researched book, Julian Pleasants provides readers with a close look at the man who dramatically changed North Carolina politics. He traces Scott’s productive and controversial political career, from his years as North Carolina commissioner of agriculture, through his governorship (1949–1953), to his brief tenure as a US senator (1954–1958). This long overdue examination of the career of W. Kerr Scott illuminates the spirit that transformed an introspective, segregated society dependent on tobacco and textiles into a vibrant, diversified economy at the center of the industrial, banking, and information revolution in the South.

Julian M. Pleasants, professor emeritus of history at the University of Florida, is the author of nine books, including Buncombe Bob: The Life and Times of Robert Rice Reynolds and Home Front: North Carolina during World War II.

Scott’s rise to power after WWII represents a critical chapter in the state’s ongoing rivalry between progressives/liberals and conservatives, a battle that, before the 1960s, took place within the Democratic party until the conservatives realigned into the Republican party. This biography will find its place among a growing literature on post-war Southern politics that argues that the progressive agenda did not completely disappear once the Cold War started. -- Charles Holden, author of The New Southern University: Academic Freedom and Liberalism at UNC

This book is the product of a mature and consummate historian who has mastered a wide range of primary and secondary sources. Pleasants writes with clarity and authority, tracing the political career of William Kerr Scott from his years as commissioner of agriculture in North Carolina, through his governorship (1949-1953), to his brief tenure as U.S. senator (1954-1958). -- Jeffrey J. Crow, Deputy Secretary, North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources (ret.)

If not for Kerr Scott I would never have run for Governor. My family viewed Scott as our political savior. . . .He improved our roads, our schools, and our healthcare. He was our champion, and I hoped in my political career to be like him. -- former North Carolina Governor James B. Hunt, Jr.

The Kerr Scott that emerges from this well-balanced biography is that of a blunt-spoken, often-controversial, pragmatic politician, who stood up for rural and working people, and stood against the powerful of his post-War era. Historian Julian Pleasants tells the compelling and complex story of an aggressive populist Democrat whose contributions to the modernization of North Carolina shifted the trajectory of a Southern state. -- Ferrel Guillory, Director of the Program on Public Life, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

At last, a major biography of the most liberal governor in twentieth century North Carolina. Senior historian of North Carolina politics, Julian Pleasants, has written his best book: a superb study of Kerr Scott who upset the Tar Heel political establishment in 1948 with a common man appeal to farmers and labor. Scott combined New Deal economic liberalism with racial moderation and investment in the infrastructure for schools, roads and water resources to transform the state. -- Anthony J. Badger, author of FDR: The First Hundred Days

Pleasant’s well-written book illuminates Scott’s progressive legislation and his interactions with future political leaders of the state. The Political Career of W. Kerr Scott is worthy of recommendation as a well-crafted and well-researched book on one of North Carolina’s most influential twentieth-century governors. -- Journal of Southern History

[An] engaging biography. -- The Southeastern Librarian

Winner of the 2015 Ragan Old North State Award Cup for Nonfiction presented by the North Carolina Literacy and Historical Association (NCLHA)

Julian M. Pleasants was named the recipient of the 2015 Ragan Old North State Award Cup for nonfiction given by the North Carolina Literacy and Historical Association (NCLHA). -- Northern Kentucky Heritage