Martin Luther Nesbitt, Jr. (September 25, 1946 – March 6, 2014) was a member of the North Carolina Senate. He represented the 49th district, Buncombe County. An attorney from Asheville, Nesbitt was elected to eleven terms in the state House before moving to the state Senate in 2004. He was consistently recognized as one of North Carolina’s most effective and influential politicians.
Nesbitt was first appointed to the House in 1979 to fill out the remainder of the term of his mother, Mary Cordell Nesbitt, who held the House seat until her death. Nesbitt rose to become the powerful Appropriations Chairman and top budget writer in the 1990s.
As House Appropriations Chair, Nesbitt advocated the funding for most of the education programs that made North Carolina a national leader. Without his leadership, there would have been no Teacher Academy, no Teaching Fellows, no Teacher Cadet program, no teacher assistants, no reduction in class size, no national average teacher salaries, and no technology access throughout North Carolina’s schools. As we look at the status of those programs today, it is clear that we miss Martin Nesbitt’s voice and leadership.
In February 2004, Martin Nesbitt was appointed by Governor Mike Easley to fill a vacancy in the NC Senate. After moving to the Senate, Nesbitt rose to become chairman of the powerful Judiciary I Committee. Note: Is that the correct name of the committee?
Nesbitt was unanimously elected Senate Majority Leader in 2009 and was unanimously elected Minority Leader for the next legislative session in 2010. He stepped down as Minority Leader in 2014 for health reasons and was succeeded by Senator Dan Blue.
Senator Nesbitt was a dedicated public servant and a man of unparalleled compassion for the less fortunate. He was the voice of the poor and those in need. His quick and dry wit was evident throughout his life, most notably when he schooled his colleagues in the North Carolina legislature on issues that adversely affected the people of North Carolina. He was practical in his thinking and passionate for North Carolina’s teachers and public schools. He understood that children could not be properly served without great teachers and great principals.
Martin Nesbitt was a man who enjoyed spending time with his family. He shared his son Mart’s passion for stock car racing and often worked on the track as the crew chief at the raceway. You could bet on a smile whenever he spoke of his family, especially his grandchildren.
The legacy of Sen. Martin Nesbitt is one that others have embraced: “The goal isn’t to live forever; the goal is to create something good that will.” Martin Nesbitt did.