Lawrence P. Zachary ran City Hall smoothly

June 6, 2013 

His obituary said he was known as “Zach” to his friends, which means that pretty much everybody called Lawrence P. Zachary “Zach.” The former Raleigh city manager died Tuesday at the age of 91, having lived a life that was productive and varied.

“He had a down-to-earth, folksy personality,” said G. Wesley Williams, former head of the Raleigh Merchants Association. “I don’t think there could have been a better man in the rather turbulent ’70s.”

Indeed, Zachary came along at a time when the city of Raleigh was changing and beginning the growth spurt that continues today. The City Hall bureaucracy was not nearly the size it is now, but the challenges of public safety, utilities, all those important features that citizens take for granted, were there.

Politics also were undergoing a profound change. For decades, Raleigh had been run by developers and a select group of business people, almost all of them white men. There was a feeling on the part of the “rulers” that they knew best and that the citizens should follow.

But with the advent of a district election system rather than the all at-large council elections, community activists gained more power, and the council became more diverse. In Zachary’s tenure (1973-83), the city’s first woman mayor was elected, Isabella Cannon, and the first African-American mayor won office, Clarence Lightner.

Zachary was a member of the Greatest Generation, a World War II veteran, a businessman and a city manager who maintained morale and efficiency and delivered excellent service to his city.

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