The scales of political power will tip away from Johnston County in the coming years as two longtime lawmakers retire with nearly 40 years in the General Assembly between them.
On the last day of the 2016 short session, Reps. Leo Daughtry and J.H. Langdon bid farewell to their elected colleagues on the House floor, thanking them for friendship and hard work while sprinkling a few words of wisdom.
“It’s come a time for me to say goodbye to my service in this house and the General Assembly,” Daughtry said. “I have been here for 13 terms, 26 years, and while I’m not the oldest rat in the barn, I’m pretty darn close.”
Langdon, who served 12 years in Raleigh, followed Daughtry in his remarks and told his listeners to keep expectations low when it came to comedy.
“Don’t expect me to be as good as Leo at telling jokes; it’s not going to happen,” said Langdon, who called Daughtry a mentor.
Daughtry and Langdon, who together represented nearly all of Johnston County, announced last year they wouldn’t seek reelection in their N.C. Districts 26 and 28, respectively. Langdon’s seat looks to go to Republican primary winner and current Johnston County Board of Education Chairman Larry Strickland, while school board member and Republican candidate Donna White will face off against Democratic candidate and high school teacher Rich Nixon for Daughtry’s seat.
The 75-year-old Daughtry was sentimental about his exit from the legislature, saying he was addicted to serving in the General Assembly. He quoted Doris Kearns Goodwin’s idea of a third place beyond family and work as being essential for a well-rounded person. For him, he said, his third place was the Capitol Building.
“A part of my soul will be left in this place,” Daughtry said. “I will certainly miss being here with you in the the years to come.”
In leaving, Daughtry seemed afraid of overstaying his welcome, of being surrounded more and more by young politicians who turn to his guidance less and less. He compared it to buying stock, saying it’s easy to know when to buy, but hard to know when exactly to sell it off and cash in.
“I’ve seen people here who have been here for too long,” Daughtry said. “I don’t want to smell like three-day-old fish, so I think it’s time for me to consider retiring.”
To ease his addiction to politics and the power and procedure that comes with it, Daughtry said his wife would help him out; that they would work political jargon into their routines and open each morning with a prayer and pledge to the flag. He signed off by saying he wouldn’t be hard to find.
“All I can say is, like the great songwriter said, If you need a friend, summer, winter spring or fall, I’m close by,” Daughtry said. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve with you. You’ve been great friends, and I know this will be a greater institution going forward.”
Langdon, a former Johnston County commissioner and school teacher, said he was proud of his ability to make friends on both sides of the aisle and said he believed it led to better legislation in the end. He advised new lawmakers that developing those friendships is part of the job.
“I’ve been proud to serve; God has blessed me greatly to be here,” Langdon said. “I appreciate very much the opportunity to serve and know you and develop the friendships I have. One of the things I’ve done is become friends with people on the minority (Democratic) side. I find that is extremely important; when I put forward a bill with my name on it, that made sense, just about 100 percent of the people voted for it.
“That didn’t just happen folks. It happened because I worked to make it happen. That’s the kind of friendships you need to develop. It’s so important to do things that work for North Carolina, and we need to do that together.”
Langdon, who was known around the House for making pens and giving them as gifts, said he would explore that hobby in his retirement, while staying active in his McGee’s Crossroads community and church.
“You have blessed me so much, can’t really tell you how much,” Langdon told his fellow representatives. “I am so proud to have been part of this assembly. Let’s keep this institution like it should be – open, clean to the point where people see that we really are trying to do the things for North Carolina.”
Drew Jackson: 919-553-7234, Ext. 104; @jdrewjackson