Governor of North Carolina, President of Duke University, United States Senator, founder of the Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy, now the Sanford School. These achievements stand out among many in the life of James Terry Sanford, but what truly set him apart was his uncommon dedication to promoting ethical policymaking and morally responsible leadership.
As governor of North Carolina from 1961 to 1965, Sanford devoted much of his time in office to improving the quality of education and expanding civil rights. Driven by staunch convictions about ethical leadership, he fought to open educational opportunities to all of his constituents and supported desegregation. A firm believer that anyone can accomplish anything with a strong education, Sanford nearly doubled state expenditures on public schools during his term. His achievements include consolidation of the University of North Carolina school system, founding of Governor’s Schools for talented children and establishment of the North Carolina School of the Arts.
Sanford began his 15-year tenure as President of Duke University in April 1970 during a turbulent period of social unrest. Sanford’s receptive ear and respect for student concerns earned him the appreciation of the student body at a time when most administrators were afraid or unwilling to reach out to the university community. Sanford was widely credited with launching Duke’s transformation from small liberal arts college to world-class research institution.
In 1971, Sanford founded the Sanford School of Public Policy (originally named the Institute for Policy Sciences and Public Affairs) as an interdisciplinary undergraduate program geared toward training future leaders. Sanford encouraged students to include creativity and ethical inquiry in their study of policymaking. When the Institute’s building on West Campus opened in 1994, the structure was named in honor of Sanford. The school now awards both bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and launched its PhD program in 2007.
Sanford served as a U.S. Senator from 1987 to 1993 after winning the Democratic nomination to succeed Sen. John P. East. He chaired the Senate Select Ethics Committee in 1992, and is also remembered for strong opposition to the Persian Gulf War.
Following his Senate career, Sanford remained active in the public sphere, writing books, practicing law, teaching classes at Duke and campaigning for the construction of a major performing arts center in the Triangle area that would provide a permanent home for the American Dance Festival, the North Carolina Symphony and the Carolina Ballet.
Sanford died on April 18, 1998 in Durham, N.C. as a result of esophageal cancer and was buried in the crypt in Duke Chapel. His spirit lives on at Duke through students and professors inspired by his legacy.
The Washington Post. “Terry Sanford, Ex-U.S. Senator and N.C. Governor, Dies.” (By Martin Weil, Sunday, April 19, 1998; Page B08)
The (Duke) Chronicle
Born in Laurinburg, N.C. in 1917
Earned BA, NC-Chapel Hill, 1939
Special agent, FBI for two years
Married Margaret Rose Knight in 1942
During WWII, served as a paratrooper from 1942-1945. Saw combat with the 517th Parachute Infantry Regiment, earning rank of first lieutenant. Awarded a Bronze Star.
During the 1950s, had a private law practice, served the North Carolina State Senate and in the N.C. National Guard