Ike F. Andrews, a courtly small-town lawyer who represented the Triangle in Congress and in the legislature for several decades as it was transformed from a rural area into a research hub, died Monday at age 84.
Andrews is best remembered as a 4th district Democratic congressman serving from 1973 until 1985, where he was a quiet advocate for social programs for the elderly, and programs to help keep teenagers out of trouble.
But in the '60s, Andrews was a power in the state legislature, serving as both Senate majority leader and speaker pro tem, where he was a strong advocate for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Andrews would say that his Chapel Hill experience and the influence of liberal UNC President Frank Porter Graham had helped shape a country boy from Bonlee.
"He was devoted to improving the education of our children and to creating equal opportunity for all of them, a belief he carried out by helping end segregation in our schools," said state House Speaker Joe Hackney. "Our state and our nation are better today because of his work."
Andrews was a tall handsome man with a silky smooth voice, and an unruffled style that gave him the presence of a politician straight out of central casting. He was proud of his rural Chatham County roots and liked to tell stories of the battlefields of Europe, where he earned a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart as a master sergeant during World War II.
He ran for Congress in 1972, beating Republican Jack Hawke by the slimmest of margins. He was viewed as a Democratic moderate, rising to become chairman of the Human Resources Subcommittee, which had jurisdiction over programs dealing with juvenile justice, senior volunteer programs and other social programs.
His peers' respect
"I always liked him and admired him," said Democratic Rep. David Price, who holds Andrews' old seat. "He was deceptively knowledgeable. He would be very modest, but as you talked to him you would realize this was a very smart and knowledgeable man who knew his business quite well."
"His peers respected him in D.C.," Price said.
Among his pet projects was the annual celebration of Groundhog Day.
Andrews never had a high profile and was famous for being overly deliberate in taking a stand, such as when he waited almost until President Richard Nixon resigned until before calling for his resignation.
When he did make headlines, it was often for the wrong reasons such as getting one of his speeding tickets. Andrews was arrested for drunk driving in October 1982 and nearly all the prognosticators thought he would be defeated by Republican Bill Cobey. Even President Ronald Reagan came down to Raleigh to campaign for Cobey hoping to get credit for helping knock off a Democratic congressman. But Andrews fooled everyone by winning.
But in 1984, during the Reagan landslide, Andrews was not so lucky and he lost his seat in a rematch to Cobey.
Andrews returned to his Siler City law practice. He tried a comeback as Chatham County commissioner in 1995 but was not successful. He had been in declining health in recent years.
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