The Republican Families of Old North Carolina

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Jeter C. Pritchard (R-N.C.), 1895-1903.

From 1876 to 1964, North Carolina voted for a Republican president exactly one time: Herbert Hoover in 1928. The most prominent families in North Carolina politics from the fundamentally disadvantaged Republican Party were the Pritchards and the Jonases. After Reconstruction, Democrats were dominant but the economic depression that came out of the Panic of 1893 tried even the Democratic dominance of the South. In Alabama and North Carolina they especially had problems holding on. After the 1894 election, the Republican-Populist multiracial coalition came to dominate the state. The state legislature, now under the control of this coalition, elected in a compromise Republican Jeter C. Pritchard (MCI: 83%) and Populist Marion P. Butler. This was an odd pairing, as Pritchard was a conservative while Butler was a progressive. However, this coalition’s power didn’t last for reasons I have covered in my “How the South Became Republican, Part III” posting. Pritchard did in 1898 request President William McKinley to send federal marshals to protect black voters in the upcoming election from intimidation and violence, expressing his fear that there would be a “race war”, but no help was to come from the White House (Zucchino, 132-134). However, Pritchard and Congressman George White were at odds as the former was willing to make overtures to the “lily-white” faction and by 1900, he had come fully on board as the state’s Jim Crow constitution had been implemented and wasn’t going away any time soon. In 1902, he didn’t bother to run for reelection. On November 10, 1903, President Roosevelt nominated Pritchard to serve on the D.C. Supreme Court. On June 1, 1904, he was elevated to the Fourth Circuit. He from the bench pushed against Jim Crow laws, calling for the Senate to declare the grandfather clause unconstitutional as a violation of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments (Zucchino, 312). The Supreme Court did rule the grandfather clause unconstitutional in Guinn v. United States (1915), but Southern states found other legal means to exclude as many black voters as possible. Pritchard would remain in the judiciary until his death.

In 1928, Republicans saw some success in the elections of Charles A. Jonas (MCI: 93%) and Pritchard’s son, George M. Pritchard (MCI: 87%), to Congress. However, on race issues the son seems to have fallen a bit from the tree; he adamantly refused to have his office next to Oscar De Priest’s (R-Ill.), the first black American elected to Congress in the 20th century. This may have been to increase his profile for his senatorial ambitions. In 1930, he ran for the Senate but lost by over 20 points to Democrat Josiah W. Bailey, who would end up being a prominent foe of FDR’s New Deal. Pritchard was not daunted by his margin of defeat and challenged the election, alleging voter fraud. This in truth served as nothing more than a symbolic challenge to Democratic dominance of North Carolina, as even if contested counties were ruled out, Bailey would still win.

In 1948, Pritchard ran for governor and although he easily lost he gained attention for his call for using the state’s budget surplus to fund education. Jonas lost reelection in 1930 with the onset of the Great Depression and attempted twice more to run for Congress, in 1932 and in 1942 against former Governor Cameron Morrison for North Carolina’s 10th district, which he lost by over 10 points. However, his son, Charles R. Jonas (MCI: 93%), won the district ten years later. He would be the first long-term Republican Congressman in the 20th century from the state, serving from 1953 to 1973. He gained a reputation as a staunch fiscal conservative, regularly proposing 1% cuts in spending for various departments which would regularly fail in Democratic Congresses. These efforts would earn him the designation of “Watchdog of the Treasury” and his loyalty to conservative Republican positions earned him “Mr. Republican”. Jonas voted against most civil rights measures during the civil rights era, making exceptions for the 24th Amendment (poll tax ban) and the Jury Selection and Service Act in 1968. However, he moderated on civil rights issues during the Nixon Administration. Jonas was also one of twenty-four representatives to vote against the Equal Rights Amendment in 1971. In 1972, he opted not to run for reelection.


Baker, M.A. (1988). Jonas, Charles Andrew. NCPedia.

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Charles Jonas Dies. (1988, October 1). The Washington Post.

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Cherry, R.L. (1994). Pritchard, George Moore. NCPedia.

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Dunlap, A.B. (2015). Tea and Equality: The Hoover Administration and the DePriest Incident. U.S. Archives.

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Justesen, B.R. (2006). Lily-White Politics. NCPedia.

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Morgan, J.L. (1994). Pritchard, Jeter Conley. NCPedia.

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The Election Case of George M. Pritchard v. Josiah W. Bailey of North Carolina (1933). U.S. Senate.

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Zucchino, D. (2020). Wilmington’s lie: the murderous coup of 1898 and the rise of white supremacy.

Boston, MA: Atlantic Monthly Press.

4 thoughts on “The Republican Families of Old North Carolina

    1. Thanks! If you have other suggestions feel free to offer. Although I am not currently stretching for ideas for posts, sometimes I really have to think of topics to write about. That’s one of the reasons I even started the Texas Legends series, to have a Plan B. The difficulty though is giving a proper write-up about the next Legend, LBJ!

      1. Speaking of your Texas Legends series, I’m hoping you’ll eventually publish an article about Henry B. Gonzalez. As for other topics, here are some ideas if you happen to be interested:

        *a series about the rare Southern Republicans from the Appalachia Mountains during the Jim Crow era; from what I read in The End of Southern Exceptionalism and elsewhere, the terrain of the area was unsuitable for slave plantations and the people in the region had strong Unionist leanings in the Civil War (particularly Eastern Tennessee); the poverty in the area also contributed to a populist bent among its elected politicians, an example being the support J. Will Taylor and B. Carroll Reece gave to the TVA

        *an article or series of articles with line graphs showing the MC-Index of voting blocs by party and region over time

        *an article or series of articles with line graphs showing percentage of support for civil rights legislation and related votes by party and ideology over time

        *a series of articles on some interesting and lesser-known Maine political figures like Robert S. Hale, James C. Oliver, and William R. Pattangall

        *an article about the political ideology of Southern black Republican congressmen in the late 1800s

        *an article about the fraction of “new wave” Southern GOP representatives in the 1950s and 60s who voted for some civil rights legislation as opposed to some of their colleagues who may have been acolytes of Democrat segregationists

        *an article about Royal S. Copeland, senator from New York

        *an article about staunch Old Right GOP figures from Nebraska, namely Kenneth Wherry, Hugh A. Butler, and Howard H. Buffett

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