This tribute was penned by Gene Upchurch, a veteran executive and lobbyist for CP&L and Progress Energy:
“For those of us who have toiled in the Raleigh political gig the last 30 years, Martin Nesbitt has always been there. Love him or hate him, agree or disagree, he was there, usually bigger than life. Impossible to miss. Impossible to misinterpret.
“He was a large man with a large, imposing personality. He was equal parts populism, pragmatism and grit. When he made up his mind, it was made up and could not be changed. You always knew where you stood with him whether you liked it or not. But at least you knew.
“People thought he loved politics, but his true love was the mountains and the simple, everyday people who lived there.
“I worked with him for several years on the Clean Smokestacks Act in the early 2000s. After the bill passed, it was many years before I understood his motivation wasn’t to beat up the electric utilities or kowtow to the environmentalists. Instead, he wanted to help mountain folks who thought their trees were dying from pollution drifting in from other states. He believed North Carolina couldn’t badger other states to clean their emissions if we weren’t doing something to clean ours. So, he patiently brokered a solution that took about four years but got the job done. In the end, his people were better off.
“He spent thousands of exhausting hours traveling to and from Raleigh, a testament to his commitment to take the mountain voices to the legislature. I remember so vividly the emotion in his voice and in the voice of his carpool buddy Senator Bob Swain when they talked about driving home from Raleigh, rounding a curve on I-40 and catching the first glimpse of their beloved mountains in the smoky distance.
“Nesbitt made his last trip to those mountains Wednesday, and it’s really difficult to imagine Raleigh without him.”