01/24/09 — Dr. Ed Wilson remembers association with late Bob Scott

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Dr. Ed Wilson remembers association with late Bob Scott

By Anessa Myers
Published in News on January 24, 2009 11:46 PM

Ed Wilson remembers former Gov. Bob Scott well.

As the executive vice president of the state community college system, Wilson worked directly with the governor for nine years.

"There's just so much to say about him," he said about Scott, who died early Friday morning. "He was a wonderful man."

Scott, he said, pulled together the community college system "with wonderful leadership."

"He got (community colleges) to the table with higher education in the state. He was the one that led the identification of community college as the entity that did economic development in the state."

And to do that, the two had to travel together quite often.

Saturday, Wilson remembered some of those times.

"I said one time, 'Chief,' -- I used to call him chief -- 'I wasn't hired to be your chauffeur. We need to figure something out here.' So he said, 'OK, one of us will drive one way and the other will drive the other way,' or 'I'll do the morning, and you do the afternoon.'

"Then after lunch, he would take a little nap. He'd sleep all the way back to Raleigh," Wilson said. "He could go to sleep at the drop of a hat. It's an amazing ability that I wish I had."

Despite his naps, Scott was one of the "hardest working people" Wilson said he knew.

"He started early and worked late," he said.

And Scott was a man who carefully thought of everyone in the state.

"Every once in a while, he would want to go to some crossroads in eastern North Carolina to make a speech, and I told him that there would probably only be 10 people there. He'd tell me, 'Once a governor, always a governor.' And then he'd go."

Scott had politics in his blood. The son of Gov. Kerr Scott, the younger Scott served as governor from 1969 until 1973. His father earned the title of "the good roads governor" in the late 1940s and early 1950s for his efforts to improve North Carolina's highway system. His son pushed through the state's first retail cigarette tax, and used the money to pay for public kindergartens. He also appointed the state's first black Superior Court judge.

Scott had a great sense of humor, loved telling stories and loved serving his community, Wilson said.

"He just felt like every person in our state ought to serve its state in some way or another in community service," he said. "He really did a lot for this state.

"People don't remember that he was the one who started kindergarten in our public schools. It wasn't implemented in his term, but he started it. And he wasn't afraid to raise taxes if it was necessary to support things like education."

Working with Scott was always fun, Wilson said.

"It was fun until one time it wasn't. That was when the state board made him go on a diet. He was in a foul mood then. I told the board members, 'You put him on a diet, and I'm paying for it.'

"When I would go into his office to tell him something, I would put my hands up and say, 'Don't shoot the messenger,'" Wilson said with a laugh.

But after nine years, the two became more than colleagues. They became close friends.

"He was definitely a man's man. He loved to eat chitlins. He loved a very dry gin martini and a big stogie," Wilson said. "And he loved his family. We would always talk about them, and he regretted the he was governor and stayed busy when his kids were growing up. ... His wife was his support, and she helped him through some of the difficult times that they had. She is a fine lady."

Wilson saw his friend before Christmas, when he visited him in the nursing home.

The two got to reminisce about the times they had together and the people they knew.

But then Wilson heard of his passing, and was glad he got to visit him last month.

"I just miss him as a good friend and a colleague. I left Raleigh in 1992, and we've kept close touch in those years," Wilson said. "He was a fine man. There's no question about that. And his legacy will be remembered for a long time.

"He taught me a whole lot about how to work with people. ... I learned a lot from him."