April 10, 1932 - May 16, 2017
Ralph A. Hunt, Sr. was born in Oxford, North Carolina (Granville County) as the seventh of eight children owing to the union of the late Johnnie and Amanda Harris Hunt. He grew up in an area of the town known as “Grab-all.” He received his formal training and education in the public schools of Granville County, attending Orange Street Elementary and the more celebrated Mary Potter High School, from which he graduated in 1950.Ralph grew up during the period of both legal and forced segregation in the South and experienced many of the hardships and difficulties that were common to that era for persons of African descent in America. Nonetheless, he enjoyed a well-rounded upbringing and developed quiet aspirations that would later figure in his preeminent rise to success as a leader, outstanding citizen, and public servant. In fact, the early underpinnings for his leadership style would come from his membership in the Boy Scouts of America, which he joined during World War II.Upon leaving high school, he chose to further his education at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina, majoring in Mathematics and embracing Education as his minor subject area. However, before he could finish the full course of study, his educational career was cut short when the United States Army came calling via the draft in his junior year. That was 1953; and, he would serve the nation as a soldier during what was known at that time as “The Korean Conflict.” His service as a Corporal in the U.S. Army would take him overseas to Germany and bring him stateside to Bloomfield, New Jersey. Ralph ended his brief military career in 1955 with an Honorable Discharge and returned once again to Johnson C. Smith University to finish his degree,graduating in 1956 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics.With a college degree in hand, Ralph would move North to Newark, New Jersey seeking a better life and work that paid a decent wage. He arrived in Newark, and was soon after hired as a mathematician at Wright’s Aircraft Company. This adventure would be short-lived, as Ralph grew increasingly homesick and disenchanted with Northern living. So,he returned gladly to his native Oxford in 1957 and found employment as a teacher at his Alma Mater, Mary Potter High School. He remembers his move back to Oxford during this time as “the best thing that ever happened to me.” Why would he be so emphatic about that occurrence? Could it be that his move back to Oxford in that year also marked the time when he met the lovely Rebecca Cooke, who at the time of meeting was a sophomore at Winston-Salem State Teachers College (now Winston-Salem State University). While Ralph would serve as teacher, athletic director, and advisor to the Senior Class at Mary Potter during his tenure there from 1957 to 1964, and also serve the local community as chairman of the Granville County Citizens League, dealing with various civil rights issues, it was his budding and all-consuming relationship with the breathtaking Rebecca Cooke that would define his life for all times future, as she became the light in his life. In 1961, they would travel to Washington, D.C. and return with wedded bliss as Ralph and Rebecca Hunt. In April of 1964, the first of the three Hunt siblings, Ralph Hunt, Jr. would be born and the couple would move to Washington, D.C. The move was designed to ensure exposure to culture and refinement for the child in his developmental years. Life for the Hunt family on the Washington scene would be brief. They both taught in the public schools of Washington, D.C. during the 1964-65 school year and then headed back to their Southern roots. This time, they landed in Durham, North Carolina. This decision would later prove to be strategic as it relates to Ralph’s future service and career paths. Ralph took a job teaching Math at the famed Hillside High School in Durham, and Rebecca taught for one year in Holly Springs, North Carolina. Ralph taught at Hillside from 1965-1968. During this time, the Hunt’s second son, Reginald, was born in March of 1967.The year 1968 bore significance for two reasons, one was the birth of the Hunt’s only daughter, Regina, in October of that year. The other significant note was that the premier black-owned and managed life insurance company in the nation, North Carolina Mutual,which was headquartered in Durham, hired Ralph as a computer programmer. He would work there until 1970. Upon leaving the employ of North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company, Ralph would become the Executive Director of the Durham Business and Professional Chain.He would hold sway there from 1970-1982. His involvement there would bring him squarely into the public arena and lead to other noteworthy service and achievements.Along the way, he would serve as a member of the Durham County Board of Social Services (1971-75), as a Scoutmaster with the Boy Scouts of America, and begin his illustrious political career. In 1975, he would achieve the first of these political milestones, as he was elected to the 13 member Durham City Council. He was one of only two African-Americans serving at that time. He served on the Council with Dr. C.E.Boulware, another long-time black elected official in Durham. Ralph represented Ward#3, a seat on the City Council which had been previously held by the legendary John S.“Shag” Stewart. His service on the City Council lasted until 1985. Ralph was known as a“consensus builder”—meaning he could always find a way to get people to come together because he was a consummate bridge-builder. In spite of being in the minority most of the time, he was appointed chairman of all standing committees at one time or another over the course of his tenure on the Council, and was chosen by his fellow Council members to serve as Mayor Pro Tempore during the term of Mayor Charles Markham. Another major stride in Ralph’s political career came in 1985 when he was elected to the North Carolina General Assembly as a Senator, replacing Gary Hancock. During his tenure, Senator Hunt became a trusted colleague and leader in the State Senate. Among his noteworthy achievements in the Senate was his sponsoring and introduction of a bill to avoid run-offs in contested primary elections in North Carolina from 50% +1 to 40%.This requirement had long defeated a good number of qualified black aspirants for political office. Amid blatant local opposition and turmoil, he introduced legislation in the General Assembly to merge the Durham City and County school systems. Senator Hunt also served at one point as the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Majority Whip of the Senate, and a member of the Joint Legislative Commission on Government. Operations. His Senate career was halted in 1993 by his appointment to the prestigious State Utilities Commission by then Governor James B. “Jim” Hunt. His Senate seat was then filled by the late Jeanne Hopkins Lucas. The Honorable Mr. Hunt served as a Commissioner from 1993-2001 where he served as Chairman of the Utilities Commission during his tenure. At the end of his term he “retired.” This only lasted for awhile, because he was sought out once again by his admirers and the collective will of the people when he was asked to finish the remainder of the term of Senator Wilbur “Wib” Gulley upon his resignation from the State Senate as one of the representatives from Durham. This period of service lasted from 2004 to 2005. Although there was a public clamoring and outcry for Senator Hunt to continue to represent the people of Durham and parts of another county, he chose not to seek the position, choosing instead to draw closer to home and enjoy the company of his cherished family, viz., his beloved wife Rebecca;son, Ralph Hunt, Jr. and wife, Anita; son, Reginald Hunt and wife, Krista; daughter,Regina Greene and husband Keith. Add to the mix, six beautiful grandchildren, Ralph Hunt, III, Lauren Hunt, Nijel Hunt, Ryan Hunt, Sydney Greene and Tyler Greene. He also has one surviving sibling; Talmadge Hunt of Norfolk, Virginia. Among his deceased siblings are: Mildred Ellerbe, Bernice Clement, John Hunt, Wilma Hunt Taylor, Ivory Hunt Marrow of Newark, New Jersey, and Joyce Hunt Shepard.After a nine year absence from politics, Senator Hunt stepped back in the political realm and served as chairman of the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People from 2014-16.While amassing such notable achievements as previously mentioned, the Honorable Mr.Hunt also obtained a Real Estate Broker’s License, a Master’s degree in Mathematics Education from North Carolina Central University, and became a licensed auctioneer.Moreover, he became a private business owner in 1982, opening convenience stores in Durham and Oxford. Of interesting note is the fact that Mr. Hunt purchased the very store in Oxford, North Carolina where he had been mistreated as a child and referred to by unflattering racial names. Senator Hunt is a member of Sigma Pi Phi and the Durham Graduate Chapter of the Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. He was named the “Kappa Man of The Year” for 1977-78 and a three-time recipient of the State’s highest honor, the “Order Of The Long Leaf Pine.”The Honorable Ralph A. Hunt, Sr. is best known by his friends, family, and colleagues as a man of great wisdom and influence, a gentle and kind manner, a quiet strength, and unquestioned honor and integrity.
Ralph A. Hunt, Sr. was born in Oxford, North Carolina (Granville County) as the seventh of eight children owing to the union of the late Johnnie and Amanda Harris Hunt. He grew up in an area of the town known as “Grab-all.”... View Obituary & Service Information
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