"James Holshouser was more than a friend and mentor, he was a genuine leader," said Governor Pat McCrory in a statement. "His passing is not only a loss for the state of North Carolina, but for the countless number of people who were personally touched by his guidance and kindness. Ann and I will have the Holshouser family in our prayers."
Born in Boone in 1934, Holshouser got his law degree from UNC and worked as an attorney before serving in the General Assembly.
He won the governor's office in 1973 - the year Richard Nixon carried 49 states in the same election.
Among his accomplishments: consolidating the University of North Carolina system under a board of governors and establishing health clinics in rural areas not served by local doctors.
After leaving office, he returned to the practice of law, and was elected to the Board of Governors of the University of North Carolina.
Governor McCrory said Holshouser served on his transition team and offered advice on forming a cabinet.
"His counsel was invaluable," McCrory said.
Other politicians echoed McCrory's sentiments - saying Holshouser will be missed.
"Holshouser was an expert at building relationships with people of all backgrounds and political persuasions. His success was directly linked to his kind and decent demeanor, and the manner in which he defined statesmanship. Even as his health failed him in later years, his service to North Carolina never stopped," offered North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis.
"To those of us who knew him personally, Jim was a trusted counselor, leader, and, most importantly, a great friend. Today, all North Carolinians have lost one of the true statesmen of our time," said Senator Richard Burr.
"I was saddened to hear of Governor Holshouser's passing. I got to know him after his time as Governor and greatly admired his commitment to education and conservation and his tireless efforts to extend access to health care to rural parts of North Carolina," said Rep. David Price. "He often worked across the aisle to get results, and where he disagreed he was never disagreeable—in short, he was a statesman and a pragmatic leader who cared deeply about North Carolina and her people, and we will miss him."
A state legislator from Holshouser's home county of Moore said the former governor's funeral will be Friday at Brownson Memorial Presbyterian Church in Southern Pines.
Rep. Jamie Boles, a funeral director serving the Holshouser family, said visitation will be held at the church Thursday evening.