Charles B. Aycock and His Mixed Legacy

On April 11, 1900, Charles B. Aycock was unanimously nominated as the Democratic candidate for governor of North Carolina.

Aycock practiced law and co-founded the Daily Argus newspaper in Goldsboro, but it became clear that politics was his true passion. He distrusted the Republican Party, which supported African American involvement in government and endorsed the idea that politics should be reserved for the white race.

As he sought to build a political reputation, Aycock worked tirelessly on behalf of the public schools, believing that education was the key to social change. After serving as a federal prosecutor, he toured the state in 1898, pressing his views on race and education in a statewide series of debates with Populist Cyrus Thompson.

Aycock handily defeated his Republican opponent in the general election, and his inauguration in 1901 launched a 72-year Democratic hold on the state’s highest elected position. As governor, Aycock touted the “Dawn of a New Day” and continued to press for educational progress. He also advocated strongly for child labor reform and temperance laws, but met mixed success on those initiatives with the legislature.

His restored birthplace in Wayne County is now a state historic site.

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