Getting other people elected is George Little's
a sideline that's made him legendary in Moore
a 1969 bid for a seat on the Southern Pines Town
Council, George Little lost by a mere seven votes
at his first and only foray into politics as a
candidate. After the election, when he counted
more than enough non-voting supporters to have
made a difference had they gone to the polls, he
learned a painful albeit valuable lesson:
Identify your voters. Turn 'em out and make
sure they're counted.
Since then, his hobby of getting
other people elected to office has made him
legendary in Moore County. Even in today's
political campaigns which emphasize
polling, advertising and the use of the Internet
Little still heeds that lesson.
The Southern Pines businessman, whose
philosophy (If I see enough, I'll sell
enough) has guided his highly prosperous
career in the insurance industry, saw his
political career rebound in 1972 with underdog
Jim Holshouser's campaign for governor.
Little backed then Lt. Gov. Pat Taylor in his
losing bid for the Democratic gubernatorial
nomination. However, he had met Holshouser at a
Jaycee convention in Portland, Ore., in 1971,
which Holshouser was attending to receive a major
Jaycee award for his successes in getting young
leaders involved in government and politics. At
the same meeting, Little was recognized as the
top state chairman in the nation for the same
Not many people thought that a mountain
Republican with little money could defeat
Congressman Jim Gardner for the GOP nomination,
much less the wealthy Skipper Bowles in the
Little told Holshouser if he won the GOP
primary he would help him. Actually it took two
primaries for Holshouser to best Gardner. But
Little kept his word and became Holshouser's
We raised $175,000 in six weeks, and
that was big money back then, Little
On election night, Holshouser's top political
strategist, Gene Anderson, asked Little to come
to the Raleigh headquarters to help provide
security and to control the crowds at the
Brownestone Hotel. Little, who has never been
known as a shy person, ended up in all the media
pictures with the new governor on election night.
Underdog Holshouser won and Little was on his way
to becoming a major player in the first
Republican administration in this century.
First, there was a $75,000 debt for the
governor-elect to pay off. He called on Little,
who raised more than $100,000, finding it a
little easier to secure funds for an actual
winner than for an underdog.
Little recalls that winning that Republican
campaign cost around $400,000 and that was for
two primaries and the general election.
As Holshouser began putting his administration
together, he again placed a call to Little. This
time the request was for him to become deputy
secretary of the Department of Natural and
Economic Resources. His friend, Jim Harrington,
was to be the secretary and they formed an
excellent working partnership. Little became
secretary the last year of the Holshouser
Little did not set out to become a politician.
In fact, his parents, George B. Little, an
automobile dealer, and his mother, Muriel Evans,
office manager for N.C. Natural Gas in Southern
Pines, were Democrats until they switched to the
Republican party in the mid '60s to support Jim
Gardner in his successful congressional campaign.
His mother was a native of Southern Pines and his
father began his life in Pinebluff, but most of
their lives were spent in Southern Pines. They
are deceased, as is Little's only brother,
Kenneth, who died of a heart attack at age 49
eight years ago. His sister, Joyce Rhodes, is
dean of continuing education and business
education at Sandhills Community College.
Little met his wife, the former Teena Smith of
Pinehurst, at a Christmas party at UNC-Chapel
Hill. They dated a couple of years before
marrying in 1963.
He got his start in business at the tender age
of 8 when he began delivering newspapers, and as
a teenager he took care of the tennis courts for
the town. His career as a salesman began while in
high school and college at Style Mart, where he
learned to sell men's clothing. I learned a
lot about sales there from Alan McLaughlin,
And he's been a successful salesman ever since
his days at Carolina, Pembroke, Richmond
Technical Community College, and many insurance
I enjoyed my many years at
Carolina, Little acknowledges. There
were only 9,000 students there then, but I came
from a graduating class of 60 at Southern Pines
High School. Chapel Hill and Southern Pines are a
lot alike. He remains a true Tar Heel fan
to this day.
In August 1964 Little became a sales rep for
Metropolitan Life as a trainee. Although it
typically takes five years to do so, he reached
the Millionaire's Club in only three
years. During the same time he began an active
Jaycee career and served as president of the
Southern Pines chapter from 1968 to 1969.
This helped me in my insurance
business, Little explains. It gave me
good contacts, and since I had to call on many of
my customers at night in their homes, that gave
me more flexible time during the days to be
active in the community.
Little's parents instilled in him the belief
that he needed to give to his community if he
also wanted to be on the receiving end.
Volunteering in politics and community affairs is
a hallmark of his life.
While Little served in every state Jaycee
office except state president, he again made his
mark by helping others succeed. He worked hard in
friend Jim Hastings' successful campaign for the
national presidency of the Jaycees.
Politics and government caused a four-year
interruption in Little's business career;
however, the Littles maintained their home in
Southern Pines as there was never any doubt about
his returning to the insurance field later.
A call from the new governor for Little to
come to Raleigh was answered immediately with
enthusiastic agreement from Little's wife, Teena,
who is a successful politician in her own right.
A former public school teacher, she has served as
a state senator and member of local and state
boards of education. She is now on the UNC Board
The love of politics grew during the
Holshouser years, and Little's involvement in
campaigns, especially in the areas of
fund-raising and organization, continues until
Among his activities have been Moore County
GOP chairman, 8th District GOP chairman,
secretary and finance chairman for the state GOP,
and delegate to two national Republican
Moore County, now a Republican stronghold, has
not always been in the GOP column, and Little's
tenacity and organizational skills are credited
by many for the party's long string of successes
Business reasons likely explain why Little
never sought public office for himself after his
narrow loss in 1969.
My business depends on my selling,
he explains. To run and serve would take me
away from my business. Raising a family and a
desire for a good quality of life means that I
could not afford to seek elective office.
However, politics has been good to the
Littles. He was appointed to the Sandhills
Community College Board in July 1981, and he has
been a member ever since. The successful GOP
county commissioners asked Little what position
or appointment he wanted, and the community
college board appointment was his first and only
Teena was on the Moore County Board of
Education, and I had served on a business
advisory committee at the college. I understood
the importance of economic development in Moore
County and because of my experience in that area
in the Holshouser administration, I thought I
could be of some help.
He became chairman of the community college
board in 1985 and has been re-elected every
December for 15 years.
I have served with only two presidents,
Raymond Stone and John Dempsey, and there have
been only five board chairs in the college's
history, he points out. Little will become
the longest-serving chairman at Sandhills this
Little has been a strong, effective leader in
state and national community college circles. He
served as state president of the North Carolina
Association of Community College Trustees from
1994 to 1996, where he championed more effective
involvement in a legislative advocacy program.
Having his wife in the Senate and the Republicans
in the majority in the House were assets to
He has also risen quickly to the top of the
leadership of the Association of Community
College Trustees and will become national
chairman in San Diego next year.
We're one of the top three states in
terms of our leadership and effectiveness of our
community college system, Little says.
At both the state and national levels, the
Southern Pines educational leader uses his
political experience to push legislative advovacy
and education and training.
He credits the business and industry training
programs as the main factor behind North
Carolina's booming economy. He also has pushed
more trustees to lobby their legislators for
Legislators are now more aware of the
benefits of community colleges, he says
proudly. While we are still under-funded,
the last several sessions of the legislature have
been good to us.
Little is also happy with the growing number
of partnerships between the community colleges
and public schools. He will continue to push for
more cooperation among all the components of the
education continuum in North Carolina.
He lists overall funding, staff salaries, and
facilities as three challenges and will continue
to work to strengthen local community college
foundations to supplement state funding.
Beaming with justifiable pride, Little says,
The quality of instruction at Sandhills is
very good. The quality of life here attracts
strong people to our college. But we need to pay
our people more, and we will continue to improve
the quality if we do that.
He applies the same management philosophy to
his successful insurance business as he does to
his various volunteer positions.
I hire people who can do the job. I let
them do their job, but I expect results and I
believe in rewarding them. I like self-starters,
and I like to have fun in the office. Some would
say I'm a perfectionist.
His organizational skills have also been
effectively used in several local
liquor-by-the-drink campaigns and several winning
bond campaigns for Moore County Schools and
Sandhills Community College.
Little has been recognized for his
accomplishments by winning many awards over the
years. In addition to receiving much recognition
through Jaycees and the Sandhills Chamber,
perhaps the most prestigious award he has
received is the State Board of Community
Colleges' I.E. Ready Award. He and Bill Friday,
president emeritus of UNC, were honored at the
same time. Little also was selected as the
Outstanding Trustee for the U.S. Southern Region
by the Association of Community College Trustees.
In his busy career, he has also found time to
serve on corporate boards.
Dwight Allen, president of Mid-Atlantic
Operations for Sprint, has worked closely with
Little on many issues and commends, among other
things, Little's legendary sense of humor.
George is blessed with a keen sense of
humor and can `quip' with anyone about any
subject, but he is also an astute business person
who prepares well and understands the details.
He's always involved in many things but
always has time to listen and it doesn't matter
if you're the company president or someone much
lower in the organization. If you ask George to
do something, he never says `no.' His response is
`where do I need to be and when do I need to be
The Littles have two daughters and a son.
Cynthia Little Frazier lives in Cary but works
for her dad. Their other daughter, Lindsay Little
Browning, is in the human resources field at
First Health Moore Regional Hospital and her
husband, Chris, is vice president of North
Carolina Motor Speedway. Lindsay and Chris have
two children, Mary Beth, 9, and Erin, 6. The
Littles' son, Wes, is an enforcement officer with
the Division of Motor Vehicles in Southern Pines
and his wife, Theresa, teaches food and nutrition
courses in the Moore County schools. They have a
daughter, Tori, who is 3.
Little's hobbies include golf (and he is
committed to increasing his time on the golf
course) and attending Carolina football and
basketball games. The Littles share ownership of
a condo in Litchfield, S.C. Both are active in
golf tournaments in Moore County.
In addition to his community college
activities, Little is on the executive committee
of NCCBI and NCFREE. These are two strong
organizations which have a positive impact on our
And since this is another campaign year,
Little is active in the campaigns of George W.
Bush for president and Leo Daughtry for governor.
Sandhills Community College President John
Dempsey says of Little, I have never known
a person as relentlessly upbeat and optimistic as
George. He has the perfect `can do' attitude, and
his enthusiasm and energy are contagious. The
essence of leadership is the ability to inspire
others to stretch themselves and George
does this beautifully.
His work on behalf of Sandhills, of
community colleges, and of all North Carolina has
been tireless. He is never too busy to listen, to
lend a hand, or to undertake a task that will
benefit community colleges. If we gave a
`volunteer of the century' award, it would surely
go to George.
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of High Point, founder and president of Classic
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Dr. John Weems
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COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL. This article
first appeared in the March 2000 issue of North
Phil Kirk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.