I had to smile a bit when I read the Burlington Times-News’ Mike Wilder’s article on the funeral of former state Rep. Cary Allred. It’s because the funeral seemed to appropriately capture Allred’s political career.
As a reporter fresh out of college in 1978, I had the opportunity to cover bits of Allred’s initial political race when he was challenging a member of one of North Carolina’s most-prominent political families. Allred, the upstart Republican, lost to Democratic Sen. Ralph Scott that year. As I recall, the margin wasn’t huge.
Two years later, I was at the Alamance County Courthouse interviewing Allred when election returns showed that this time he would defeat Scott.
Nearly two decades later, our careers would cross again. After a stint as an Alamance County commissioner, Allred returned to Raleigh as a state representative. After working at The Gaston Gazette in Gastonia for 12 years, I moved to the state capital to work for Freedom Communications’ Raleigh Bureau. I was there writing about Allred when his career as an elected official came to an end in 2009.
Allred was among the most colorful politicians I’ve covered. He was prone to be combative on the House floor. He annually fought to get additional homestead property tax relief for the elderly and the disabled. He once told me that he thought there should be a time when people who’d worked their whole live shouldn’t have to worry about paying taxes anymore.
His supporters and critics alike would acknowledge that if you were one of Allred’s constituents, he would go to bat for you if you were having difficulty dealing with the government bureaucracy. On more than one occasion, when Allred wasn’t able to resolve a constituent’s issue through administrative channels, he’d file a bill to change the law.
He wouldn’t back down. When I read Wilder’s story that Johnny Cash’s version of “I Won’t Back Down” was played at the close of Allred’s funeral, I thought it was quite appropriate.