Thomas Cowart Goolsby is a former Republican State Senator from Wilmington appointed to the BOG in 2015 by the NC Senate and nominated by Bill Rabon. He is also a personal injury and criminal defense lawyer, disgraced investment advisor, former chairman of the New Hanover GOP, and frequent YouTuber. Prior to working as a lobbyist he worked as a criminal defense and personal injury lawyer at the Goolsby Law Firm in Wilmington. He gained notoriety in the 1990s as the “ultra-conservative” – he once called the Smart Start pre-k program an “intrusion into family life”- New Hanover Republican Party Chairman whose leadership ended up splitting the New Hanover Republican Party.
In 2004 Goolsby filed to run for Attorney General against Roy Cooper but lost in a Republican primary. At the time he was a managing partner at the Currin Law Firm based in Raleigh and Wilmington as well as an adjunct faculty member at Campbell’s law school. Goolsby’s law partner Sam Currin was a former NCGOP chairman and federal prosecutor under Reagan who later went to prison for money laundering. Goolsby was former legal counsel to the Governor’s Crime Commission under Gov. Jim Martin and campaigned for almost a year on a platform of building more prisons and lengthening sentences. When Goolsby sought the nomination for AG, he said his campaign would focus on “cracking down on repeat criminals” and pushing a “zero tolerance approach.” He pushed state lawmakers to repeal the prison cap, which the legislature approved in 1987 to address overcrowding.
Elected to represent New Hanover County as a Senator in 2010, Goolsby resigned from his seat in 2014 after a state investigation found that he was misleading clients at his investment firm. State investigators determined that the “plan” Goolsby used resulted in greater client losses. After resigning, he formed Goolsby Government Relations where he lobbies for an array of controversial clients. Goolsby was enlisted by Smithfield Foods to lobby for a bill that restricts lawsuits against hog farms. He also was a lobbyist for the controversial sweepstakes industry group and multiple hospital groups.
Goolsby was a controversial senator during his tenure from 2011-2014. He introduced a bill that would strip undocumented workers from workers’ compensation protections and pledged to introduce legislation titled “no benefits for illegal aliens.” He wrote a column titled “getting a grip on illegal immigration” in which he objected to the “mistreatment” he received at TSA screening compared to the “lack of security” at the border. Goolsby lamented, “why am I treated like a prisoner in my own country when the nation’s borders are wide open?”
In 2013 he published an Op-Ed titled: “Expanding Medicaid: Bad move for many reasons.”
As chair of Justice and Public Safety Appropriations, Goolsby became a “high-profile advocate for law-and-order legislation.”
His lasting legacy in the Senate remains authoring legislation that repealed the Racial Justice Act (RJA) and attempted to bring back the death penalty after the de-facto moratorium had been in place in North Carolina since 2006. The RJA, passed in 2009, provided an avenue for people sentenced to death to prove racial bias in their trials and have their sentences reduced to life in prison. The NCGA gutted the act in 2012 by narrowing how statistics could be used and putting the burden of proof on the convicted. In 2013 Goolsby introduced his full repeal legislation that not only repealed the RJA but also “lifted roadblocks” to executions.
Goolsby wrote an op-ed titled “Time to Kill the Racial Justice Act.”
Goolsby was almost obsessive in his condemnation of the Racial Justice Act. He called it “Monday morning quarter-backing to the Nth degree,” opined that “RJA cases have nothing to do with the guilt or innocence of a defendant,” and said that the legislation “turns our hardworking district attorneys into racists, and it turn the cold-blooded first-degree murderers into alleged victims.” Furthermore, he said that the RJA was a “back door attempt to end the death penalty.” Goolsby’s bill that included the repeal also included a provision that would have removed the de-facto moratorium on the death penalty in North Carolina.
Goolsby, essentially, is a conservative lightening rod. He was a vocal critic of the Moral Monday Movement, calling it “Moron Mondays,” and deemed the protestors “mostly white, angry, aged former hippies.” Notably, Goolsby supported the “Family, Faith and Freedom Protection Act” which tightened regulations on abortion clinics and required patients to have ultrasounds before accessing abortion care.
Goolsby became embroiled in a lawsuit over the controversial voter ID law later ruled unconstitutional. Plaintiffs suing the legislature cited an email from Goolsby, then a state Senator, that said the NC Senate would “take a fresh look” at the pending voter ID bill after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Shelby County v. Holder.
Essentially, Goolsby’s email outlined Republicans’ plans to target Black voters with ID restrictions if North Carolina’s Voting Rights Act preclearance requirement was removed.
In 2016 Goolsby spearheaded a move to retaliate against Attorney General Roy Cooper’s refusal to defend HB2.
Specifically he encouraged the BOG to pass a non-binding resolution to take 150 percent of UNC’s legal costs from the AG’s budget to demonstrate “dissatisfaction” with Cooper’s actions.
Additionally, Goolsby has been one of the most outspoken critics of protestors and university officials in the wake of the Silent Sam controversy. He maintains that “non-student radicals allowed by the police” orchestrated the toppling of Silent Sam. After the statue came down, he pushed for it to be put back in place in accordance with a 2015 law passed by the Republican-controlled General Assembly (N.C. General Statute 100.2.1(b) that sets restrictions in the removal of objects, even though some legal scholars disagree with that interpretation. He has been an adamant supporter of the statue returning to its original location and released a video in the immediate aftermath of the toppling of the statue, titled “Silent Sam Will Be Reinstalled as Required by State Law.” In a separate video Goolsby vowed to protect the statue and stated, “we will continue this fight until the rule of law is re-established in North Carolina.” Goolsby lamented, in yet another three-minute video, the Silent Sam relocation plan proposed by the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees and called it “cowardly and illegal.”
“This marine will take the first round of guard duty.” – Goolsby referring to Silent Sam.
Goolsby was the only BOG member to vote against forming a five-member task force to assist the UNC-Chapel Hill BOT in crafting a new plan.
(YouTube, retrieved 6/1/19)