Rep. Jim Fulghum (R-Raleigh)
Rep. Jim Fulghum (R-Raleigh)

The retired neurosurgeon was a freshman representative who spent most of his time in the legislature focused on health care issues.

By Rose Hoban

Several weeks ago, word started floating through the General Assembly on Jones St. that Rep. Jim Fulghum (R-Raleigh) was seriously ill. But no confirmation of the rumors came until a member of the House of Representatives asked on the floor about Fulghum’s condition.

Rep Jim Fulghum (R-Raleigh) speaks with Cary group home resident Robert Bullock at the rally outside the General Assembly Wednesday afternoon.
Rep Jim Fulghum (R-Raleigh) speaks with Cary group home resident Robert Bullock at a rally outside the General Assembly in 2013. Fulghum became involved in the effort to save funding for group homes for people with mental illness. Photo credit: Rose Hoban

“He is ill, and I would ask you to keep him in your prayers,” responded House Speaker Thom Tillis (R-Cornelius).

The same day, July 3, Fulghum filed a letter with the state board of elections withdrawing his candidacy for this fall.

This weekend, Fulghum’s family announced he died from complications related to cancer. He was 70 years old.

“As a medical doctor, Jim had a professional and personal passion for helping those in his community and state. Wake County and all of North Carolina lost a great man today,” wrote Gov. Pat McCrory in a statement Sunday.

Fulghum was instrumental in pushing through the House a number of bills related to health care, in particular children’s health, which included a bill to assure newborns are tested for heart disease and one restricting access to electronic cigarettes. He also helped save the state’s Child Fatality Task Force from elimination during last year’s budget fight.

In a statement, Tillis wrote that Fulghum’s “leadership as a legislator was second only to his compassion and expertise as a doctor serving his constituents and the state of North Carolina.”

Fulghum also co-sponsored a bill banning tanning bed use by teens and one to provide epinephrine pens in North Carolina schools. Both bills passed the House last year but continue to languish in the Senate.

“Not only did we lose the expertise of our only physician legislator, we lost a strong advocate for North Carolina’s children,” said Annaliese Dolph, a lobbyist who represents advocates for children and people with disabilities. “Rep. Fulghum was a very kind person and will be sorely missed.”

Fulghum was planning a run for the state Senate to replace long-serving Sen. Neil Hunt (R-Raleigh), who is retiring this year. After Fulghum’s withdrawal, Wake County Republicans chose John M. Alexander Jr. as a replacement candidate.

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Rose Hoban is the founder and editor of NC Health News, as well as being the state government reporter. Hoban has been a registered nurse since 1992, but transitioned to journalism after earning degrees...

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