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As he moved into the Governor’s office for the first time in 2000, Michael Easley knew he had an immense challenge before him. The state faced a shortfall of nearly a billion dollars. But the new governor was used to hard work—he began his life on a farm in Nash County.
Mike Easley was born in 1950, the second of seven children. His parents owned a tobacco farm, and Mike and his brothers worked alongside the tenant farmers who cultivated the tobacco. The Easley children attended a Catholic school and sat side by side with black children, even during a time that the public schools were racially segregated. Their parents stressed the importance of treating everyone with respect.
Besides working on the farm, Mike hunted and fished. He also played football at Rocky Mount High School. His mother’s former singing profession influenced his interest in music, and he loved singing and listening to music. Later his interest would lead him to learn how to play the guitar.
He met his wife Mary while working as assistant district attorney in eastern North Carolina. Mary admired his intellect and sense of humor, but said there was one thing that made him stand out from other law professionals—he once gave a jury argument in rhyming iambic pentameter.
“Not only did it take a lot of guts to deliver a jury argument that way,” Mary says in the special, “but to be able to remember it and do it is pretty impressive.
Mike Easley’s first run for office was in 1982, when he was elected district attorney for the 13 th judicial district. In 1990, he ran for the United States Senate but lost the Democratic primary to former Charlotte mayor Harvey Gannt. He was elected Attorney General two years later.
Probably the hardest part of public life for Governor Easley has been his loss of privacy. Those who know him say that he doesn’t conform to any particular political party, that he has his own ideas. That may also be what people like about him: that no one really knows what he’s going to say or do next.