Sen. Martin Nesbitt, (D) Buncombe County

ASHEVILLE — Sen. Martin Nesbitt has passed away just days after stepping down as the Democratic leader in the state Senate.

The Senate caucus director says that the 67-year-old died Thursday evening.

Nesbitt cited a recent medical diagnosis as the reason for vacating his post, and officials say he was diagnosed with cancer on Feb. 24 and began treatment this week.

Just Wednesday, political supporters and friends welcomed Nesbitt home.

After a stay at UNC Medical Center, Nesbitt arrived in Asheville by ambulance and was greeted by people from both sides of aisle.

The North Carolina Democratic Party released the following statement on Sen. Martin Nesbitt’s death:

“We wish to express our sincere sympathy at the passing of the Honorable Martin Nesbitt. Our prayers are with his loved ones at this time for they have lost a husband, father and grandfather. The citizens of the State of North Carolina have lost a leader and champion of exemplary and distinguished public service. The poet Mary Lee Hall, in “Turn Again to Life”, wrote:

“‘If I should die and leave you here a while, be not like others sore undone, who keep long vigil by the silent dust. For my sake turn again to life and smile, nerving thy heart and trembling hand to do something to comfort other hearts than thine. Complete these dear unfinished tasks of mine and I perchance may therein comfort you.’

“We, the fellow Democrats who worked with and supported Senator Nesbitt will continue to champion the causes for which he fought during his illustrious career and we will incorporate his spirit into the permanent fabric of the Democratic Party.”

Senate Democratic Leader Dan Blue, Jr. also said the following statement about Nesbitt’s death:

“Tonight, North Carolina lost a great leader, and I mourn a valued friend. Martin always believed in the people of our great state and strove to make North Carolina a better place. I have known and served with Martin for over thirty years and I will greatly miss his friendship, counsel, and candor. Tonight my prayers are with Martin, his family, and the families across North Carolina for whom he worked for so long.”

North Carolina Republican Party chairman Claude Pope said Nesbitt was a “dedicated public servant:”

“We are terribly saddened to hear of Senator Nesbitt’s untimely passing. Although we may have disagreed on some issues over the years, Senator Nesbitt was an honorable and dedicated public servant who worked to improve the lives of North Carolinians. Our thoughts and prayers are with Senator Nesbitt’s family during this difficult time.” 

Gov. Pat McCrory has ordered all North Carolina state flags on state facilities to be lowered to half staff in honor of Nesbitt.