Under the Dome

Mike Easley

Office District Status
Governor Statewide Retired
Party In Office Since Term Ends
Democrat 2000 2008
Level of Government  
Date of Birth Birthplace Now Lives In
March 23, 1950 Nash County, NC Southport, NC


Mike Easley was a two-term governor of North Carolina and a two-term state attorney general. A native of rural Nash County, he overcame a learning disability to attend law school and became a district attorney in 1982. In 1990, he ran for the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate. He was elected state attorney general in 1992 and 1996 and governor in 2000 and 2004. His major accomplishments were the lottery, the More at Four program for at-risk pre-schoolers and the use of incentives to lure new businesses to the state. He was criticized for a hands-off management style, problems with the state's probation and mental health systems and a poor relationship with the press. He was the first North Carolina governor to use the veto, but he granted only five pardons. Easley was famously publicity-shy, except during natural disasters. He is the author of "Look Out, College, Here I Come," a children's book. 


He's a big fan of the animated "King of the Hill" TV show. 



Marital Status
Son, Michael Jr.

Mike Easley was the governor of the state of North Carolina, a two-term state attorney general and a local prosecutor. 

Early Life and Education

Michael Francis Easley was born March 23, 1950, in Rocky Mount to Henry Alexander Easley, Jr. and Huldah Marie Easley. He grew up on a 60-acre tobacco farm in Nash County.

He attended parochial school before transferring to public schools.

He studied at Belmont Abbey College in Charlotte before transferring to UNC-Chapel Hill, where he graduated in 1972.

He then went to N.C. Central University, where he graduated with a law degree in 1976. He served as managing editor of the law review. 

Professional Career

After law school, Easley worked as an assistant prosecutor in the Thirteenth Judicial District, including Brunswick, Columbus and Bladen counties. 

While there, he met a Wilmington prosecutor, Mary Pipines. They later married.

They have one son, Michael Jr.

Political Career 

In 1982, Easley was elected district attorney, gaining notice for his convictions against drug dealers and a handful of corrupt public officials, including a sheriff and a clerk of court.

In 1990, he ran for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate, losing to former Charlotte Mayor Harvey Gantt, who went on to lose the general election to Sen. Jesse Helms.

In 1992, Easley was elected state attorney general. He was re-elected in 1996.

As attorney general, he started a pilot program of drug courts and helped craft a settlement with the tobacco industry that will bring the state $5 billion over 25 years.

In 2000, he was elected governor, defeating former Charlotte Mayor Richard Vinroot and two other candidates with 52 percent of the vote.

He was re-elected in 2004, beating Republican state Sen. Patrick Ballantine and a Libertarian candidate with 55.6 percent of the vote. 

His major accomplishments in office were starting a state lottery, creating the More at Four program for at-risk pre-schoolers and using incentives to lure new businesses to the state.

He was criticized for a hands-off management style, problems with the state's probation and mental health systems and a poor relationship with the press.

In 2007, he wrote a children's book, "Look Out, College, Here I Come!"

In late April of 2008, Easley endorsed Hillary Clinton for the following week's presidential primary, which was won by Barack Obama. In early June, he endorsed Obama.

He was the state's second Catholic governor.

Vetos and Pardons

Although Gov. Jim Hunt was the first North Carolina governor to have the power of the veto, Easley was the first to use it. During his two terms in office, he vetoed nine bills. Only one was overridden by the legislature.

The first, on Nov. 3, 2002, was on a Senate bill making a host of obscure but also politically important appointments to state boards and commissions.

The last was on a bill allowing wider boats to be hauled on state roads. On Aug. 27, 2008, the legislature met in a special session to override the veto, the first time in state history that a veto had been overturned.

A former prosecutor, he gave out only five pardons while in office.

Post-Gubernatorial Career

Under the state Constitution, Easley could not run for a third consecutive term in 2008.

As his final year in office began, speculation rose that Easley might run for the U.S. Senate or be chosen for a Cabinet position under a Democratic president.

In an interview on "The Charlie Rose Show" in February of 2007, Easley ruled out running against U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole, despite being the only Democrat to have polled better than Dole in pre-campaign surveys.

In the interview, Easley said he prefers being in "executive positions."

Ongoing problems with mental health and probation, his endorsement of Clinton and news stories about Mary Easley's trips to Russia, Estonia and France and her high-paying job at N.C. State hurt Easley's popularity his final year in office.

Although there was some speculation that Easley might be considered for secretary of education or attorney general under President Obama, there is no evidence he was seriously considered and he was not appointed to any federal post.

In an interview, Easley said he would probably not do full-time legal work after leaving office.

He was succeeded by Gov. Beverly Perdue, a Democrat who served as lieutenant governor during his administration.

Research and reporting by Ryan Teague Beckwith. 



Community Involvement:
Not specified.

Contact Info

Office of the Governor
20301 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, N.C. 27699-0301


bachelor of arts
UNC-Chapel Hill
Graduated: 1972
juris doctorate
N.C. Central University
Graduated: 1975


Not specified.
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