Marc Basnight, dean of Dare County & N.C. politics, passes at age 73

Marc Basnight [photo courtesy News & Observer]

Marc Basnight, the dean of politics in Dare County and North Carolina for decades, passed away Monday at age 73.

Born in Manteo and graduate of Manteo High School in 1966, Basnight served as chairman of the Dare County Tourism Bureau from 1974 to 1976, before being named to the North Carolina Board of Transportation in 1977 by then-Gov. Jim Hunt.

Basnight was first elected to the North Carolina State Senate in 1984 and represented the First District until he stepped down due to health issues in 2011 that was later diagnosed as a form of ALS, Lou Gherig’s Disease.

He served as the Senate President Pro Tempore from 1993 until 2010, the longest tenure in North Carolina history.

Basnight and his family own and operate Lone Cedar Café on the Nags Head Causeway. The new bridge over Oregon Inlet was named in Basnight’s honor in 2019.

His legacy, however, can still be seen from Manteo to Murphy: the largest educational bond issue in U.S. history funding new buildings at all 16 institutions of the University of North Carolina System, creation of the UNC Cancer Center in Chapel Hill, the state’s Clean Water Trust Fund.

But his true impact is felt in the area to this day.

Whether it was construction of long-needed four-lane roads to connect us with the rest of the state, the purchase and reconstruction of Jennette’s Pier in Nags Head, or other countless contributions to improving the way of life along the Outer Banks and across northeastern North Carolina.

Statement from the Dare County Board of Commissioners:

With sadness and many fond memories, the Dare County Board of Commissioners and the people of Dare County remember Senator Marc Basnight. Highly respected throughout the state and the nation, Marc was a true native son of Dare County who worked tirelessly for those he served in northeastern North Carolina.

“I was fortunate to have a special friendship with Marc,” said Dare County Board of Commissioners Chairman Bob Woodard. “He was someone I could always turn to, and I will miss his smile, his encouragement and his passion for Dare County. I will always cherish our talks together, and I appreciate all that he has done for the people of Dare County and the state of North Carolina. Marc Basnight’s legacy and life of public service will be treasured forever.”

Governor Roy Cooper issued a statement Monday evening:

“North Carolina lost a giant today with the passing of my friend, Senator Marc Basnight. His positive influence on our public universities, transportation, environment and more will be felt for decades. A man of great power and influence, his humble, common touch made everyone he met feel special, whether pouring them a glass of tea in his restaurant or sharing a pack of nabs at a country store. He believed in North Carolina and its people, and our state is stronger because of him. Our prayers are with Vicki, Caroline and the whole family.”

Statement from current Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger:

“Sen. Basnight and the institution of the Senate are in many ways inseparable. He left his mark on the body, and therefore the state, over his nearly two decades of leadership.

“Sen. Basnight loved people. I used to hear that he’d stop along the way from the Outer Banks to Raleigh just to speak to strangers and hear what they had to say. He loved people, and they loved him back.

“I will always remember the grace with which Sen. Basnight conducted the 2011 transition. He spared no effort and denied no request. He could wage political battle with the best of them, but he always put the institution of the Senate, as a symbol of the people’s representative government, first.

“He’s one of a kind, and I will miss him.”

Statement from Congressman Greg Murphy:

“North Carolina lost a consequential and dedicated public servant to our state tonight in Senator Marc Basnight,” said Murphy. “An eastern North Carolina native, Senator Basnight cared deeply about the welfare of this great state and his impression on our politics will be felt for years to come. I am terribly saddened by passing, and my condolences go out to his family and loved ones. He will be mourned as a dedicated public servant.”

This is a developing story, stay with OBX Today for more updates.

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