Former N.C. Rep. Jim Gulley dies

Former N.C. Rep. Jim Gulley, a Matthews Republican who represented southeastern Mecklenburg County in the legislature for 14 years, has died at 75.

Despite his years in Raleigh from 1996 until his retirement in 2010, colleagues remembered Gulley for his love of Matthews. He died Tuesday after a long illness.

Gulley won a seat on the town board in 1993, a time of transition for the growing town, said former longtime Mayor Lee Myers.

“Jim would think about what he was going to say, take out a little notebook and write out the points he wanted to say, and that was it,” said Myers, a Democrat. “He was on point, he knew what he wanted to say and he stuck to his guns.”

Gulley had gone home thinking he’d lost the board race because of mistakenly transposed election results, his wife Suzanne said. They learned otherwise when supporters appeared, shouting in victory outside their house.

He won his first election to the House three years later, beating an incumbent with a campaign chest of only $12,000, she said.

As a legislator, Suzanne Gulley said, her husband loved constituent service. He treasured a note from a Mint Hill woman Gulley had helped get insurance coverage to correct her son’s malformed jaw.

“His sole motivation for seeking political office was to serve his fellow citizens, many of whom he saw in church, at the football fields where he coached, or during charitable events where he donated his time and talent. He was a public servant who truly put the public first,” Gov. Pat McCrory said in a statement.

Gulley worked at National Cash Register for 19 years, working in artificial intelligence and sensor technology, before starting his own computer company.

The couple met at East Mecklenburg High School when they were 16 and married at 19. They had two children, Jim Gulley Jr. of Concord and Elissa Biggs of Clayton.

Gulley loved to hunt, his wife said, buying each of his four grandchildren lifetime fishing and hunting licenses at birth.

He was an adamant supporter of Matthews’ fire department, added current Mayor Jim Taylor, who served on its board with Gulley.

“Jim was a very conservative guy by nature, but when it came to safety issues and doing right by the town he was always there,” Taylor said.

Gulley was also devoted to the Matthews Athletic & Recreation Association, which he helped create from the time its baseball field used feed sacks for bases.

“There are still people in the community who call him ‘Coach,’ ” Suzanne Gulley said. Each March found Gulley wearing what Myers called his “appropriately aged” blue-and-orange MARA coach’s jacket at the baseball spring opener.