Durham icon, former state Sen. Ralph Hunt Sr., dies at 83

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Ralph Hunt Sr. passed away Tuesday. He was 83.

The Bull City is remembering a staple in the community. Ralph Hunt Sr. died Tuesday at the age of 83, friends say.

His sudden passing is a shock to many who knew him well.

"Disbelief. Immediately, I just thought about his family," said Omar Beasley, Hunt's friend and mentee.

Hunt Sr. was a husband, father and grandfather. Before he served five terms in the state Senate, he was a Durham City Councilman and educator -- teaching at Hillside High and North Carolina Central University.

Hunt, a native of Oxford, N.C., even established a chain of convenience stores called Parkview in Durham. The location off Fayetteville Road is under new management.

Friends say his death was sudden.

"Mr. Hunt was a leader. A true leader." Beasley said.

Last year, when Hunt stepped down as chairman of the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People, Beasley became his successor.

"He taught me leadership, I've always thought of myself as a leader, but he taught me how to lead with a firm hand," Beasley said.

In 2014, friends credit Hunt's firm leadership for establishing the 82-year-old organization's first official headquarters.

"He was a true champion," said Walter Jackson, a friend of Hunt's. "He was a man who was selfless in his willingness to give his time and many talents to the city and the state."

State and congressional leaders also remembered Hunt on Wednesday.

"Ralph Hunt was a courageous community and state leader who always was a voice for the middle class and low wage earner," Sen. Floyd McKissick said.

Congressman G. K. Butterfield said: "Ralph Hunt Sr. was a leader among leaders. His steady hand as a community leader and former legislator benefitted Durham and contributed to its growth and economic development."

Mayor Bill Bell echoed those sentiments. Bell also said Hunt was instrumental at the general assembly in helping to merge Durham's city and county public school system into one.

Funeral arrangements for Hunt have not been announced.

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