In November 1940, J. Melville Broughton was elected to the North Carolina governorship amidst rising anxiety over the war in Europe. Nonetheless, Broughton successfully introduced extensive legislation, which improved public education, mapped out the state’s natural resources, and created the Good Health Program. His greatest legacy is considered to be extending the school term from six to nine months. Broughton is the only governor to come from Wake County.
Born in Raleigh, North Carolina on November 17, 1888, Broughton attended public schools as a child. Following his graduation from Wake Forest College, Broughton was employed as a high school principal for two years before briefly working as a reporter for the Winston-Salem Journal. Soon after, Broughton was trained in law at Harvard College. He then transitioned to politics. After serving on the school board and as city attorney of Raleigh, Broughton was elected to the state senate in 1926 and completed two terms.
In 1940, Broughton was chosen as Democratic gubernatorial nominee and defeated Robert H. McNeill, the Republican nominee. After taking office, Broughton used his party’s popularity and its control of the General Assembly to extend the school calendar to nine months; add a 12th grade to public schools; implement a retirement plan for state employees, including teachers; and allocate funds to public libraries and the arts. Broughton also provided funds to survey North Carolina for minerals and introduced the Good Health Program, a medical program that expanded medical care and hospital construction throughout North Carolina for the purpose of alleviating polio, malaria, and other diseases.
Broughton was elected to the United States Senate but died a few months after taking office, on March 6, 1949. He is buried in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Michael Hill, ed., The Governors of North Carolina (Raleigh, 2007); William S. Powell, North Carolina Through Four Centuries (Chapel Hill, 1989); National Governors’ Association, "Joseph Broughton."