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.