Where are Ruby and Jack Hunt when we need them?

Somebody needs to sit our political leaders down and guide them into talking to each other about how to get our state out of the HB2 mess we have made for ourselves.

That is what former Cleveland County state Representative Jack Hunt and his wife, Ruby, used to do in Raleigh. I admired their ability to get people of different views together at the same table for meals and fellowship.

Here is the way I described their magic meals in my new book, “North Carolina’s Roadside Eateries.”

“Jack and Ruby regularly invited their government friends for informal suppers of country ham, baked chicken, cornbread, biscuits with sourwood honey and molasses, and vegetables from her garden, including corn frozen minutes after it was picked the previous summer.

“Once, when UNC President Dick Spangler and Governor Jim Hunt were at loggerheads about the governor’s budget proposals for the university, they could hardly speak to each other until Jack invited them to breakfast with Ruby. Neither the governor nor the university president could say no to Ruby. It only was after they sat down to Ruby’s cooking and warm spirit that they worked out a compromise.“

North Carolina has a history of people with hard-line different views coming together informally to hear each other out, and working something out of a situation that had seemed intractable.

People in Durham still celebrate the unlikely friendship that developed between Ku Klux Klan leader C.P. Ellis and black community leader Ann Atwater when they addressed community and school challenges in an informal setting.

At last the governor and some legislators are proposing bills that attempt to craft compromise solutions. But each proposal has met with critical resistance from those on both sides who are unwilling to consider compromises.

Summarizing his longer commentary on possible solutions to the HB2 situation, Chapel Hill attorney Patrick Oglesby writes, “No middle ground will satisfy everyone. Folks on both sides–call them hardliners–sincerely yearn for victory based on principle and morality, and despise symbolic defeat. But a principled return to “pre-existing law and practice” sows pardon where there is injury, and it relegates the non-problem of the wrong bathroom to old, tried and true trespassing law — and to the jury. We can ask our leaders to sit down together and assemble a package to make the fighting stop.  As a Christian pastor put it: ‘We can live together as brothers or perish together as fools.’”

Oglesby’s quote about living together comes from Martin Luther King Jr.

It calls out for good will and a willingness to put aside absolutism in order to find a good pragmatic, if imperfect, accommodation.

It reminds me of how the togetherness around Ruby and Jack’s table could foster a spirit of trust and willingness to compromise.

Where are they when we need them?


Note: Oglesby’s complete statement is at
D.G. Martin hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch,” which airs Sundays at noon and Thursdays at 5 p.m. on UNC-TV. Preview the upcoming program on Preview the upcoming program on UNC-TV’s North Carolina digital channel  (Time Warner #1276) on Fridays at 8 p.m.
This Thursday’s (March 2) guest is Tony Earley, author of “Mr. Tall.”
Next week’s (March 9) guest is the late John Hope Franklin, author of “Mirror to America.”
To view prior programs: http://video.unctv.org/program/nc-bookwatch/episodes/
For upcoming programs: www.unctv.org/ncbookwatch
Thursday 5pm March 2 Tony Early, author of “Mr. Tall”
Thursday 5pm March 9 John Hope Franklin author of “Mirror to America”
Thursday 5pm March 16 Charles Frazier author of “Thirteen Moons”
Thursday 5pm March 23 Pat Conroy author of “The Death of Santini”
Sunday noon March 26 and Thursday 5pm March 30 Ralph Hardy, author of “Argos”
Sunday noon April 2 and Thursday 5pm April 6 Renee Ahdieh, author of “The Rose & The Dagger”
Lengthy excerpt from NC Roadside Eateries in curent “Walter”Magazine at:
North Carolina’s Roadside Eateries: A Traveler’s Guide to Local Restaurants, Diners, and Barbecue Joints
Now available in local bookstores and web bookstores.  $16.  For information or to order from UNC Press  http://uncpress.unc.edu/books/13644.html