Dr. Jim Fulghum, who represented House District 49 in the General Assembly, died over the weekend following treatment for cancer. He was 70, a retired neurosurgeon, and until recently, a candidate for State Senate. He was also a model citizen legislator.

He was not a career politician or a lifelong political hack. Instead, he was a medical doctor who spent most of his life serving his community. He did not embark on a political career seeking power or wealth. Instead, he saw it as something which could keep him busy in retirement, and through which he could use his valuable insights from his medical career as a means to improve the lives of everyday North Carolinians.

And indeed his insights proved invaluable. Among the bills he introduced which were passed into law: a bill expanding heart defect screening for newborn babies, a bill allowing the use of hemp oil to treat seizure disorders, a bill which would require Epi-pens in public schools (vital for preventing complications from severe allergic reactions), and a law keeping youngsters out of tanning beds. Such laws are not just good public policy; they help save lives. And they came about because of Jim Fulghum.

His contributions to the field of health policy and his gentle, kindly nature garnered him the respect and affection of his colleagues on both sides of the aisle and indeed all those with whom he came into contact. He stood on principle but was always eager to listen. In today’s increasingly polarized political climate, he was a throwback to another era where friendship crossed party lines.

Dr. Fulghum dropped out of the State Senate race just three weeks ago. His withdrawal and subsequent death denies additional Wake County residents the opportunity to be represented by this fine gentleman. Dying so shortly into his one term in office, his political career will not be remembered for its length. Instead, it will be rightly seen as a capstone to a long record of service to North Carolina and to his country. As a representative, Dr. Fulghum accomplished more in less than one term than most legislators do in five. One wonders what more he could have done, and how much we have been denied, in his passing.

He will be missed.

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