Former Senate Minority Leader Martin Nesbitt is being remembered by colleagues on both sides of the aisle as a dedicated public servant and a courageous voice for North Carolinians. The Buncombe County lawmaker passed away Thursday evening at age 67, ten days after being diagnosed with stomach cancer.
Even when the votes weren’t there to win the day, Sen. Nesbitt was a champion for public education, health care, and programs that benefited rural and low-income North Carolinians.
In a July 2013 radio interview with NC Policy Watch, the Senate Minority Leader told Chris Fitzsimon it was a major mistake for the current leadership to reject federal dollars for Medicaid expansion and an extension of unemployment benefits. In that same interview, Nesbitt reflected on how governing the state had changed since he first joined the legislature in 1979. (Click below to hear a portion of that interview.)
Nesbitt is being remembered this week by Republicans and Democrats alike for the legacy he leaves behind. Here are just a few of those remembrances:
“Sen. Nesbitt was a dedicated public servant to the State of North Carolina. He was a true professional in everything that he did. We join his family in mourning his loss.” – Governor Pat McCrory
“North Carolina lost a great leader, and I mourn a valued friend. Martin always believed in the people of our great state and strove to make North Carolina a better place. I have known and served with Martin for over thirty years and I will greatly miss his friendship, counsel, and candor. My prayers are with Martin, his family, and the families across North Carolina for whom he worked for so long.” – Senate Democratic Leader Dan Blue, Jr.
“Sen. Martin Nesbitt cared deeply about people and spent a lifetime fighting for what he believed would make NC a better place. Sen. Nesbitt’s passing leaves a deep void in our Senate family. I ask everyone to keep his loved ones in their prayers”- Senator President Phil Berger
“He just cared profoundly about people, particularly people who need a little help. He cared a great deal about his mountain constituents. He was a man of the mountain and that was just who he was and what he cared about.” – Senator Josh Stein
“For thirty years, Martin Nesbitt has served the people of Buncombe County in the General Assembly with extraordinary dedication, and North Carolina has lost a great leader. Martin was a fierce defender of his values, a champion for mental health, and a strong advocate for North Carolina’s children and public education system. I am honored to call Martin a colleague and friend, and my thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends during this difficult time.” – U.S. Senator Kay Hagan
“He was a courageous leader, integrity unmatched. A friend to all of North Carolina.” – Rep. Alma Adams
Nesbitt was first appointed to the NC House in 1979 to finish the remainder of the term for his mother, Mary Nesbitt. He served as appropriations chairman and top budget writer in the 1990s and began serving in the Senate in 2004. He was elected Senate Majority Leader in 2009, and after the Republican takeover in 2010, was elected Minority Leader.
Governor Pat McCrory has ordered all state flags to fly at half-staff to honor the Senator. Funeral arrangements are pending.