With a Rubik’s Cube in hand, former Gov. Jim Martin explained a trick he used on the campaign trail in 1984 to solve the colorful puzzle mid-stump speech.
Martin would pull out a Rubik’s Cube and tell crowds it represented the state’s complex economy and the jumbled problems of government. Then he’d appear to solve it in seconds as he spoke about his plans to fix North Carolina. “People would think I was a magician,” he said Monday.
In reality, Martin said, the cube was rigged – it looked scrambled but was set to the same easy-to-solve position each time. “It was pretty effective on the campaign trail,” he said.
Three of the cubes used to win over voters 30 years ago are headed to the N.C. Museum of History. They were among 50 personal items Martin donated to the museum’s collection on Monday.
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Martin, 78, a Republican who served from 1985 to 1993, gave a show-and-tell presentation to Gov. Pat McCrory and other state officials.
Martin showed off the Bible used in his second-term inauguration and the doctoral robes he wore as a Davidson College professor. He explained how a Spanish coin with the inscription “more, beyond” represented North Carolina and its hopes for the future.
And at McCrory’s urging, he played a short tune on the tuba, his instrument of choice since eighth grade. He’s used the borrowed Salvation Army tuba to raise money for the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, where he was once a musician. (He said he’s going to buy the Salvation Army a new one.)
Martin’s donation to the museum – which also included the golf ball from his 1992 hole-in-one – illustrates the personal side of the man who’s been a prominent figure in North Carolina for almost 50 years.
His legacy, however, is contained in the boxes of papers and speeches that the museum also received Monday. Martin entered public life when he was elected a Mecklenburg County commissioner in 1966. He then represented the Charlotte area in Congress for 12 years before running for governor in 1984.
Martin started his tenure by pushing for a merit pay boost for teachers and tax cuts to attract business. He appointed several Democrats to his Cabinet, earning him a reputation as a moderate Republican.
Martin also pushed for the governor to have the power to veto legislation – a change that dramatically increased the governor’s power a few years after he left office. He proposed a sales tax increase to pay for teacher raises, and he established the Highway Trust Fund, which initially was designed for widening major highways and building beltways around cities.
A mentor for McCrory
McCrory – the first Republican governor since Martin left office – had high praise for his predecessor Monday.
“He’s been my mentor,” McCrory said. “I constantly seek his advice. He’s a true role model of a public servant.”
The governor also praised Martin’s wife, Dottie. Her second inaugural dress and a book she helped publish on the executive mansion’s history were also added to the museum’s collection.
“She has left a legacy, the legacy of beautiful flowers on our highways,” McCrory said, noting her work to establish North Carolina’s highway wildflower program. “They were a great team.”
Martin is the latest governor to add to the museum’s gubernatorial collection. The collection includes inaugural gowns from a number of first ladies as well as the striped pajama pants worn by Gov. Elias Carr in the 1890s.
The collection is generally only on display once every four years, to coincide with inaugural festivities.
But history buffs won’t have to wait until 2017 to get a glimpse of the new Martin collection. The artifacts will be featured in an exhibit on Martin’s life, which will open Nov. 9 and run through Jan. 4.
“I think this is a great tradition,” McCrory said.