John Pope: R.I.P.


This week marks the passing of Mr. John Pope, patriarch of the Pope dynasty and father of Art Pope. The N&O has the story.

RALEIGH - During a career spanning more than 50 years, John William Pope built a family business into a regional retailing empire. Pope, head of one of the wealthiest, most politically influential and most charitable families in the Triangle, died of cancer Saturday at his home in Raleigh. He was 81.

"He's one of the shrewdest, smartest businessmen I've ever known," former U.S. Sen. Lauch Faircloth said in an interview before Pope's death. "He's done more to help the Republican Party than anyone I know of in the state."

I've never found Lauch Faircloth to be especially astute, but he sure nails this one. Mr. Pope was focused on the Republican Party, pure and simple. Whether that was good for North Carolina, well, that's something we can debate another day.

Faircloth received contributions from Pope. So did former U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms. The state Republican Party named its Raleigh headquarters for Pope and his wife, Joyce, because of donations. And Pope's political influence is being continued by son Art Pope, a former legislator who unsuccessfully ran for lieutenant governor in 1992 and later founded the conservative Raleigh-based John Locke Foundation.

The N&O article makes a sweet song out of Mr. Pope's frugality, painting him as our own little Sam Walton. That too is a discussion for another day.

But Pope's frugality didn't carry over to charities and other causes. The John W. Pope Foundation, founded in 1986, last year gave $7.4 million to dozens of recipients, including the Locke Foundation, Campbell University, Safe Haven for Cats and Citizens Against Government Waste. The year before, the total was $3.98 million. UNC-CH, where Pope served as a trustee from 1985 to 1992, has received $467,849 since 1987, not including athletic donations.

"He cared about the state," said Jack Hawke, a former state GOP chairman who knew Pope for 40 years. "There's no telling how much money he has given over the years."

I know Mr. Pope did some fine things with all that money he made in the retailing world, and god bless him for that. He was especially generous to Campbell University, giving many millions of dollars to support the school. But John Pope also oversaw and financed a marked shift toward extreme partisanship in North Carolina that will take decades to dig out from.

Mr. Pope's passing leaves his son Art Pope at the helm of the family business. I hope you'll help celebrate the new top dog by refusing to shop in any of his stores. Super 10, Popes, Eagles, Super Dollar, Roses and Maxway. Because every time you spend a dollar in one these retail establishments, you are funding the continuation of Republican extremism.


There's another side to this story, of course

and John Hood has it in an eloquent eulogy.

The Builder

You — Gracious, Brave Protector, Father — built
Upon a firm foundation first a home,
Each brick, each plank, each promise fixed, no tilt,
A compass pointing north, a metronome.

You — Gracious, Brave Protector, Father — built
A sturdy bridge, then two, then hundreds more,
So traders, far above swift streams and silt,
Could buy and sell, explore the distant shore.

You — Gracious, Brave Protector, Father — built
A winding road, through wilderness, to scout,
A path to lead the young, with hand on hilt,
Discovering what life is all about.

You — Gracious, Brave Protector, Father — built
An arbor tinted not in greens but blues,
To cultivate young minds, as not to wilt,
To educate for higher things — to choose.

You — Gracious, Brave Protector, Father — built
A monument to liberty and truth,
Constructed not with ornament or gilt,
But with ideas imbued with ageless youth.

You — Gracious, Brave Protector, Father — built
With strong, committed hands a legacy
Of daring and repose, no guile or guilt,
Of passion, love, and generosity.

The column has a ton of links to all the stuff Mr. Pope has "built," and is worth a quick read if you don't mind gushing paternalism. But the truth is, neither John Hood nor James Protzman will be the judge of John Pope's influence on North Carolina. That will be the job of history.

And the Temple was torn down by the Romans brother John

The Builder

You — Gracious, Brave Protector, Father — built
Upon a firm foundation first a home,
Each brick, each plank, each promise fixed, no tilt,
A compass pointing north, a metronome.* Brother John

Straight out of the Brotherhood manual. "So mote it be" Brother

Poem by Joyce Kilmer. 1886–1918

I THINK that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the sweet earth's flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day, 5
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

poem by mike nichols. 1931-

(dedicated to john hood)

You have not, as I, walked
the silent sleeping streets,
with streaming eyes, running
from the women in the windows.
You have not slid, as I have slid,
under the seas to see the shells,
smiling and swimming silently.
You have not seen the moon
running along the sky.

So shut up.

(hood gets points for his use of iambic pentameter, but yeesh...)