Kay Daughtry, the first woman to serve on the Board of Alderman in Garner, and the former administrative assistant to Gov. Jim Hunt, died Friday at The Laurels of Forest Glenn.
Kay Daughtry died of pneumonia, her son David Daughtry said. She was 91.
A Wayne County native, Kay moved to Garner with her husband in 1948 and never left. She had two children.
Kay had an extensive history in local politics. She was the first woman elected to the Board of Alderman in Garner from 1957-59, during a time it was uncommon for women to serve in leadership positions.
David said he remembers standing in front of the polls as a child and asking people to “vote for my momma.”
“It was before women were inclined to do anything like that,” he said. “But it never crossed her mind that she shouldn’t.”
“One of the things she said was ‘I felt like I had something I could give to the town of Garner, and there was only one way I could do that. And that was to get in a position to do it.’”
He remembers her first accomplishment was getting Christmas lights on the town’s Christmas tree and it’s water tower. He also remembers the previous town hall burning down, and she and the rest of the board getting a bond passed that would pay for what is now the current town hall.
Kay came back for a second stint in 1976 and served until 1980.
While serving as an alderman for a second time, Kay was the administrative assistant for Governor Jim Hunt, while he was in office as governor and Lt. Governor. Hunt was the 69th and 71st governor of North Carolina serving four different terms.
Kay was his administrative assistant during his first term. She would serve as his spokeswoman and represented him if he couldn’t be at certain places. She at times gave speeches and presented awards on his behalf.
“Kay Daughtry was an important part of my leadership as governor and helped me greatly in the governor’s office,” Gov. Hunt said. “She was also an important leader of the state democratic party where she was a strong supporter of education and progressive programs the party has put through. I send my sympathy to her family and I am thankful to her life.”
David Daughtry said his mother believed in Hunt and that he was good for the state.
“She felt a keen responsibility to him because he had enough faith in her to say ‘Kay, would you do this?’”
Kay Daughtry was president of the Wake County Democratic Women of NC twice; once from 1972-73 and again from 1987-90. She was secretary of the NC Democratic Party from 1973-74 and delegate of the National Convention in 1988.
“She was a dedicated person to the causes and the things she believed in and she was a difficult opponent if you didn’t see eye-to-eye with her. And that means son included,” David said.
She was also a singer, David said. his mother sang for soldiers on the army base in Goldsboro. She’d record songs and soldiers would give it to their girlfriends or wives as a present. That’s where she met her husband Marvin Daughtry.
Kay also sang at her church, Garner United Methodist until her health began to decline.
“I remember her being very active in our music program,” said The Rev. Susan Hobbs, associate pastor at the church. “The church members loved her. She was very active in helping us lead worship.”
David, who would later run for town council, said the most important thing he learned from his mom was to have an opinion about something and stick to that opinion.
“It didn’t matter whether we were always right or wrong, but if we voiced an opinion, we stuck with that,” he said. “And that required knowing the pros and cons of any topic of any issue before voicing the opinion.”