Outsiders Help North Carolina Politicians Think Outside the Box


By Rob Christensen

Democratic Gov. Terry Sanford was named one of the 10 best American governors of the 20th century by a 1990 Harvard University study.
Such lists are obviously arbitrary, but if Sanford (governor from 1961-65) belongs in such an exalted circle, he can thank, in part, his unorthodox decision to hire a novelist from Asheville to be his special assistant and his idea man for his final two years.
John Ehle, who died last month at age 92 in Winston-Salem, was a singular figure in Tar Heel politics. Ehle didn’t attend political functions, was not interested in power, didn’t really want the job, and left the government payroll as soon as he could.
Ehle traveled in cultural circles, not political ones – an accomplished novelist and the author of 17 books, married to Tony-winning British stage actress, Rosemary Harris, and the father of well-known actress, Jennifer Ehle. They maintained homes in Winston-Salem, Penland, New York City and London.

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