Former longtime North Carolina Senate leader Marc Basnight has died. He was 73.
The politician was ill for several years with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease or ALS. Basnight died at his home in Manteo, N.C. surrounded by family members on Monday, according to his former chief of staff Amy Fulk.
Basnight, a Democrat, served in the Senate for 26 years from 1984 to 2011. His nine two-year terms as Senate president pro tempore from 1993-2010 made him the longest-serving head of a legislative body in N.C. history. Some of Basnight’s accomplishments included the restaurant smoking ban, public education reforms and instituting the state’s lottery system.
Basnight’s colleagues from both sides of the aisle reflected on his life in North Carolina politics.
Sen. Richard Burr, (R-N.C.), said Basnight was one of the “most effective and influential political leaders in North Carolina’s history.”
“North Carolina lost a giant today with the passing of my friend, Senator Marc Basnight,” Gov. Roy Cooper said in a statement. “His positive influence on our public universities, transportation, environment and more will be felt for decades. A man of great power and influence, his humble, common touch made everyone he met feel special, whether pouring them a glass of tea in his restaurant or sharing a pack of nabs at a country store. He believed in North Carolina and its people, and our state is stronger because of him. Our prayers are with Vicki, Caroline and the whole family.”
“Sen. Basnight and the institution of the Senate are in many ways inseparable. He left his mark on the body, and therefore the state, over his nearly two decades of leadership,” current Senate Leader Phil Berger, (R-Rockingham), said.
“Basnight loved people. I used to hear that he’d stop along the way from the Outer Banks to Raleigh just to speak to strangers and hear what they had to say. He loved people, and they loved him back. I will always remember the grace with which Basnight conducted the 2011 transition. He spared no effort and denied no request. He could wage political battle with the best of them, but he always put the institution of the Senate, as a symbol of the people’s representative government, first. He’s one of a kind, and I will miss him.”
“The NCDP and I are deeply sorry to hear of the passing of Senator Marc Basnight who faithfully served North Carolina in the State Senate for more than a quarter-century,” North Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Wayne Goodwin said.
“He was an incredible fighter for everyday North Carolinians and was known far and wide as a reliable problem solver. As someone who served with him in the legislature, I witnessed first-hand not only Basnight’s advocacy for eastern and coastal North Carolina, but also how he helped every region of the State with his masterful, tireless, passionate leadership for investments in public schools, North Carolina’s public universities, conservation of our natural resources, and transportation infrastructure. His strong voice, insatiable curiosity, and his continued leadership will be greatly missed. We have lost a great friend of North Carolina, a friend whose legacy we must carry on for generations to come.”
Basnight resigned his seat in early 2011. He told reporters at the time he was struggling with the degenerative nerve disease that affected his balance and speech.
A bridge named after the former politician sits on the Outer Banks and earn several 2020 design awards. The 2.8-mile-long stretch of the Marc Basnight Bridge spans Oregon Inlet, said to be “one of the most dangerous channels on the Atlantic Coast due to its treacherous currents, constantly shifting depths, and high winds.”