School integration was enforced through busing in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district after the Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education trial. The decision explained that districts must take definite actions to desegregate schools. Busing ended in 1999 and caused racial diversity in many schools to decrease.
The Research Triangle Park was created in 1959 to fill a void left by the decline in North Carolina’s three major industries — furniture, textiles and tobacco. In 1974, Archibald Davis, chairman of Wachovia Bank and a key fundraiser for RTP, called on leaders from Duke University, North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to create a plan that would ensure the three institutions’ continued presence and involvement in the Park. The result was the Triangle Universities Center for Advanced Studies, Inc., a group of six organizations in the Park that combines the work of faculty and scientists.
The N.C. General Assembly appropriated funds to establish a four-year medical school at East Carolina University. The legislature proposed a three-part mission — to increase the number of primary care physicians, to improve the overall health of citizens in eastern North Carolina, and to increase access to medical education for minority and disadvantaged students. The school is now named the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University.
The Raleigh-Durham and Charlotte airports became major air-travel centers. By the end of the 1980s RDU hosted seven carriers including American Airlines, which brought in the first international flights to the airport as well as a new runway and apron. In 1986, Charlotte Douglas International Airport handled 500 flights a day and millions of passengers in a year.
The American Tobacco Complex in Durham closed. This decline of the tobacco industry marked a major shift in the economic scene of the state. A similar economic shift occurred when the state’s timber and textile plants outsourced their factories to other states.
Hurricane Floyd caused widespread devastation in the southeast and major flooding of the Cape Fear and other rivers. The 15-20 inches of rain and more than 100 mile per hour winds that the hurricane brought to the state triggered the second largest evacuation in U.S. history. The storm cost N.C. billions of dollars in damage to homes, infrastructure and resources.
In the early 2000s, more than 25 percent of the state’s population became part of America’s obesity epidemic. By 2006, more than 60 percent of adults in North Carolina were overweight or obese, and the state had the fifth highest rate of overweight children. North Carolina’s obesity epidemic cost the state an approximate $57.37 billion for adult medical care in 2006.
N.C. voted for the country’s first black president. Barack Obama won the state with 49.9 percent of the vote compared to Republican candidate John McCain’s 49.5 percent. Success for Obama centered on the votes of young voters and black voters in N.C. This marked the first time N.C. had elected a Democratic president since Jimmy Carter in 1976.
The population in North Carolina grew exponentially in the 2000s. As the Latino population grew 111.1 percent from 2000 to 2010, Raleigh and Charlotte ranked first and third on a 2009 Forbes ranking of top 10 cities where Americans relocate.
Due to the state’s large debt, education funding was cut by more than $1 billion for the 2009-2010 school year. These cuts caused N.C. to fall to the bottom 10 percent in the nation in education spending. The cuts affected not only primary and secondary education but also caused tuition hikes at higher education institutions like the UNC system. The UNC system has continued to have its budget cut every year since 2009.
President Barack Obama signed into law the Affordable Care Act. In North Carolina, approximately 20.4 percent of nonelderly individuals were uninsured in 2009. According to the Congressional Budget Office, 92 percent of all nonelderly people in the United States will have health insurance by 2012. Similar projections show that 1.1 million of uninsured North Carolinians will likely be covered by 2019.
The Republicans became the majority in the N.C. General Assembly with 68 Republicans in the House of Representatives to 52 Democrats and 31 Republicans to 19 Democrats in the State Senate. Before 2010, North Carolinians voted Democrats as the majority in the legislature for more than 100 years.