Republicans’ recent success in North Carolina politics can be traced in many ways to the example set by Jim Martin. That’s one of the key themes of a new biography focusing on the state’s only two-term GOP governor of the 20th century.

Catalyst: Jim Martin and the Rise of North Carolina Republicans will be released Tuesday, Oct. 6. Martin and biographer John Hood will discuss the book in a series of events starting in October, including an Oct. 6 presentation at the N.C. Museum of History in Raleigh.

“As a local politician, congressman, governor, and senior statesman, Martin helped prepare North Carolina’s Republican Party for its historic rise to power,” writes Hood, chairman of the John Locke Foundation. “Every time he campaigned for office, he won. Along the way, and not by accident, the fortunes of his political party rose as he did.”

Hood documents the “essential but underappreciated” role Martin played to help transform a once solidly Democratic North Carolina into a state capable today of placing all three branches of state government, both U.S. Senate seats, and a solid majority of the state’s congressional delegation in Republican hands.

From reform-minded Davidson College chemistry professor, to Mecklenburg County commission chairman, to 12-year member of the U.S. House of Representatives in the 1970s and 1980s, to just the state’s second Republican governor of the 20th century from 1985 to 1993, Martin consistently served as a “catalyst” for important changes in North Carolina’s political history, in Hood’s words.

“As a Republican governor in what had been a strongly Democratic state, Martin enjoyed remarkable success in translating his policy agenda into law,” Hood writes.

“His blending of pro-growth tax policies with a coherent strategy for improving core public services — an approach Martin called ‘constructive conservatism’ — served to give an entire generation of Republicans the tools they needed not only to win elections for local and state offices later on but also to govern effectively.”

Unlike other titans of late 20th-century Tar Heel politics, Martin was able to transition effectively between federal and state elected offices, Hood explains. Seeing things “from a telescopic range,” in the words of a key aide, Martin was able “to connect the conservative rhetoric North Carolinians expected from Republican candidates with the practical solutions they wanted from governors,” Hood writes.

While Republicans appear to have the upper hand in North Carolina politics in 2015, more than two decades after Martin left office, the “party trailblazer and coach” labels Democrats’ efforts to regain power as “healthy,” Hood writes.

Reflecting his academic roots in chemistry, Martin contends political cultures ought to be “fluid” rather than static, with “two parties vying with one another, bringing out their best candidates, sometimes missing that responsibility and having to pay for it.”

“Throughout his political career, Jim Martin both fostered and thrived in such a culture,” Hood writes. “In the process, he set an example for North Carolinians of all persuasions to study, admire, and emulate.”

Catalyst is available from local booksellers, online vendors, and publisher John F. Blair ( This is Hood’s seventh book. The others include Our Best Foot Forward: An Investment Plan for North Carolina’s Economic Recovery (2012), Selling the Dream: Why Advertising is Good Business (2005), Investor Politics (2001), The Heroic Enterprise: Business and the Common Good (1996), and two volumes of family history.

Martin and Hood will discuss Catalyst and Martin’s political history during a series of public events across North Carolina, including four sponsored or co-sponsored by the John Locke Foundation.

The governor and his biographer appear together at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 6, at the N.C. History Museum in Raleigh. Other joint appearances include JLF luncheon events Oct. 8 in Winston-Salem, Oct. 14 in Wilmington, and Oct. 29 in Greensboro.

For more information about these four events, please visit or call 866-JLF-INFO.