One of my favorite questions to ask people when I’m speaking about my Jim Hunt book is: “How many of you were living in North Carolina in 1960?”
I use 1960 because it was a seminal year in Hunt’s life – and North Carolina’s. It marks a neat half-century, for one thing. It was the year Terry Sanford was elected governor. Sanford’s campaign was the first one Hunt worked in, and Sanford was one of his political heroes. And 1960 is a useful starting point to measure how far the state has come.
Yesterday’s Census announcement drove that change home.
North Carolina has more than doubled in size in 50 years – from 4.5 million in 1960 to 9.5 million now.
Back then, we were a state of small cities, small towns and farms. Today, this is truly an urban megastate.
Imagine North Carolinians in 1960 being told all that would happen in 50 years: the ResearchTrianglePark, the explosive growth of the Triangle and Charlotte Metro, the economic change, the end of segregation, the traffic and the four-lane highways, on and on.
Imagine them being told that every decade would bring, on average, one million new people into the state.
Now you try to imagine what lies ahead. We grew the last decade by 1.5 million people. By 2020, we may add two million more. Imagine the changes that will bring.
Not many people raise their hands when I ask who was here in 1960. And none of them can believe what happened.
You ain’t seen nothing yet.