The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

Opinion & Letters to the Editor

July 15, 2013

Zeb Alley, the teller of tales

Monday, July 15, 2013 — RALEIGH – Zeb Alley was a teller of tales and jokes.

Most of them can’t be repeated in this column.

He was also an institution in state politics for decades. From the mountain town of Waynesville, Alley was elected to the state Senate in 1970 for a single term. He turned that stint in the legislature into a long career of involvement with the state government that included serving as former Gov. Jim Hunt’s legislative counsel from 1980-84.

Afterward, he became the state’s most influential lobbyist for better than a decade.

Alley died Thursday morning. He was 84.

Even as he grew older, he never stopped his lobbying practice completely. When his health permitted, Alley would show up in the Legislative building, still with that twinkle in his eye.

Because this column regularly runs in the Waynesville newspaper, The Mountaineer, Alley would often joke when he saw me, “Here’s Waynesville’s own.”

Alley’s memory was remarkable. Years after I had begun covering legislative politics, he could still recall within a year of when I first showed up with pen and paper in hand.

It was that memory which made his stories, whether they involved his time serving in the Korean War or in the Hunt administration, so enthralling. He not only remembered details that elevated his retelling of events, he could throw in a facial expression that you knew captured what he had seen at the time.

One of his favorites involved a night after the legislature had left town for the weekend, and Hunt had been left alone by First Lady Carolyn Hunt to visit her parents.

Hunt was known as something of a prude (some other politicians could benefit from such a reputation), but decided to tag along with Alley on one of his regular jaunts to the Frog and Nightgown jazz club in the old Cameron Village Underground.

Alley recalled that after a waitress had taken his drink order, she inquired of Hunt’s. Alley replied, “He doesn’t drink,” only to be interrupted by the governor, “No, I’ll have a glass of wine.” Asked what kind of wine, Hunt fumbled around until receiving a suggestion.

According to Alley’s telling, a woman lobbyist later talked Hunt into joining her for a dance. Innocent as it was, the episode somehow ended up in The News & Observer of Raleigh, likely in its Under the Dome column.

That’s where the best part of the story begins.

Alley recalled being at a function at the governor’s mansion a few days later. Greeting Mrs. Hunt, he remembered her turning coldly without a word. “She wouldn’t speak to me for days,” he said. Even at 84 and three decades later, Alley’s impersonation of Carolyn Hunt pursing her lips and rolling her eyes was priceless.

With a hundred stories like that, and a mountain man’s gift for retelling them, it is no wonder that Alley became the institution that he did.

Scott Mooneyham is a syndicated columnist for Capitol Press Association and covers activities of the N.C. Legislature.


Text Only
Opinion & Letters to the Editor
  • Do White Castle prices tell us anything about the minimum wage?

    NEW YORK - Economists love hamburgers. Specifically fast-food burgers. This is partly because all right-thinking human beings love ground meat on a bun, but it's also because the sandwich makes a handy yardstick for international financial comparisons. The ingredients and labor involved in preparing a Big Mac are pretty much the same no matter where you are in the world, so by looking at how many hours of toiling it takes a worker to earn enough to purchase one, you can get a sense of how wages really stack up across countries. The Economist famously created the Big Mac index in 1986 to see which currencies were overvalued. It started as a joke. Now, as the magazine proudly notes, it's a subject of academic study.

    April 22, 2014

  • Can Hillary Clinton rock the cradle and the world?

    WASHINGTON - What's most interesting to contemplate is the effect becoming a grandmother will have on Hillary's ambition. It's one of life's unfairnesses that a woman's peak career years often coincide with her peak childbearing years.

    April 22, 2014

  • Doug Creamer All in the Family

    We had a family get-together at my brother’s house on Easter Sunday. It’s hard to get our family together because we are spread out, especially when you consider nieces and nephews. My parents and siblings all made the gathering this year. Some of my nieces and nephews are far away, but they all remember gathering at my brother’s house for the holidays. Easter is known for the Jell-O eggs and the famous Easter egg hunt.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Victimized by the 'marriage penalty'

    In a few short months, I'll pass the milestone that every little girl dreams of: the day she swears - before family and God, in sickness and in health, all in the name of love - that she's willing to pay a much higher tax rate.

    April 19, 2014

  • The case for separate beds

    WASHINGTON - The other night I slept on a twin bed in the guest room of the house I share with my husband and our two kids.
    It was the best night's sleep I've had in years.

    April 19, 2014

  • taylor.armerding.jpg Obama's equal pay exaggeration leads us all into danger

    The president's claims of national shame over gender-based pay inequity spring from distorted calculations, as well as some convenient political math.

    April 12, 2014 1 Photo

  • Teens trading naked selfies for mugshots

    Will teenagers ever learn? You think yours will. Maybe so. But it's likely that was also the hope of the parents of children who were so shamed by nude photos of themselves that went south - how else can they go - that they killed themselves.

    April 12, 2014

  • Brent Laurenz If you want to vote in primary, you need to register to vote now

    RALEIGH – North Carolina voters will head to the polls on May 6 this year to cast ballots in important primary elections across the state.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Scott Mooneyham Heeding the voter fraud call in N.C.

    RALEIGH – Legislators found the findings outrageous.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Doug Creamer Roots

    I took a few minutes over the weekend to enjoy our yard and the arrival of spring. There seems to be so much work that needs to be done, it is hard to decide what to do first. I am excited that I got to run my tiller through the garden. I didn’t go very deep, but I did at least break up the soil. I have a couple of raised beds and the soil in them was in very good shape. I didn’t plant my peas and now after the big rain we got on Monday I realize that I missed a window of opportunity.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

House Ads
Seasonal Content