commissioner bill james
Photo of Mecklenburg County Commissioner Bill James via The Charlotte Observer
commissioner bill james
Photo of Mecklenburg County Commissioner Bill James via The Charlotte Observer.

If you do not already know Mecklenburg County Commissioner Bill James, consider yourself lucky. But in the vein of knowing thine enemy, allow yourself to be educated to the extent of this man’s ugliness. The Conservative Republican has been making ridiculous statements and casting anti-equality votes for two decades now.

James has announced that he will run for reelection this year. The election is scheduled for Mar. 15. James represents the conservative District 6, one of six county commission districts. It has approximately 167,000 residents.

Here are seven of the racist, homophobic County Commissioner’s worst moments.

  1. Voting to cut arts funding over “Angels in America” controversy
    When, in 1996, Charlotte was one of only six regional theaters selected by playwright Tony Kushner to present “Angels in America,” which centers on the HIV/AIDS crisis of the 1980s, as well as the Reagan years in general and Mormonism, it set off a firestorm of controversy.

    James, a newly elected member of the board, was one of the first to raise the issue, and voted to cut the county’s funding of $2.5 million from the Arts & Science Council. It passed, in 1997, with a 5-4 vote. Of the five who voted to strip funding, only James remains. The Mecklenburg Gay and Lesbian Political Action Committee (MeckPAC), still active today, was formed in part to help defeat the “Conservative Five,” or “Gang of Five,” as they were nicknamed at the time.
  2. Saying black students are living in a “moral sewer,” cannot be taught
    In an email sent out back in 2004, James said this: “Most people know why CMS can’t teach kids within the urban black community. They live in a moral sewer with parents who lack the desire to act properly.” He later claimed he used explosive language to begin a dialogue, saying, “There is no nice, politically correct, Charlotte way to address this issue because it is something that no one wants to talk about.”
  3. Gay sex obsession, ignorance
    The Commissioner is more gay sex obsessed than most gay people – although one study suggests that homophobes may be tormented closet cases, which is interesting, isn’t it?

    The best example of James’ gay sex obsession can be found in this 2005 email. Notice that he mistakes felching – the act of sucking one’s own semen out of someone’s anus [note that this is an act that could be committed by a male-female couple just as easily, making it not exclusively a homosexual act…although I imagine it is not terribly popular in either the gay or straight communities] – with gerbiling – the most likely completely urban myth act of sticking a gerbil up one’s own anus. He also apparently thinks this is something that the gay community is into, in spite of the fact that it is not actually something the gay community is into.
  4. Insulting the memory of a colleague’s dead son, calling him a “homo”
    When, in 2009, County Commissioners voted 6-3 to approve same-sex partner benefits for county employees, Commissioner Vilma Leake delivered personal remarks as to why she supported the measure, bringing up her gay son who died from complications of AIDS. James leaned over to her and, over a hot mic, asked, “Your son was a homo, really?” Leake answered back, “Don’t make me hurt you. Don’t do that to me. Don’t talk to me about my son.” James later refused to apologize, comparing homosexuality to alcoholism, and calling Leake a “religious hypocrite.” 
    James’ comments against Leake’s son resulted in then Chair of the Mecklenburg County Commission, and current mayor, Jennifer Roberts, publicly condemning his comments, although without directly naming him.
  5. Comparing gay people to insects
    James sees gay people as an infestation, claiming that police are working to “de-infest” areas where gay people “congregate.” The full quote: “If we were all that ‘progressive’ would we be arresting 250 homosexuals a year? Setting up sting operations to de-infest areas where they congregate? Point is, if you want to delude yourself that homosexual conduct is ‘ok’ go ahead. The law, the police and the DA however have a different view.”
  6. Calling all gay people “sexual predators”
    When Jennifer Roberts, then County Commissioner Chair, made a request to send a letter thanking some members of the Charlotte area congressional delegation for their “yes” votes on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) repeal, James sent off one of his famous emails, this time saying, “Homosexuals are sexual predators.” He went on, stating, “The US Government would not allow Hetero men and women to share showers and other personal facilities yet the leading homosexual in Congress (Barney Frank) thinks it is OK for homosexuals to do so allowing enlisted men and women to fall prey to higher ranking or more powerful homosexuals who ogle them (or worse).”
  7. Saying anti-gay marriage amendment he supported was about keeping gays out of North Carolina
    James was one of the key supporters of an amendment to restrict same-sex marriage in North Carolina. He told The News & Observer, in 2011: “The purpose is not just to prevent Massachusetts people coming down. It’s also to put a big letter of shame on the behavior. We don’t want them here. We don’t want them marrying. If you’re going to do it in San Francisco, it’s your own business.”

[UPDATE: This article originally contained language asking District 6 residents to vote James out. That may have been hasty, and has since been removed while looking into his only challenger in the race, Republican Joel Levy, who appears to have made a transphobic remark on his personal Facebook page.]


Jeff Taylor / Social Media Editor

Jeff Taylor is a journalist and artist. In addition to QNotes, his work has appeared in publications such The Charlotte Observer, Creative Loafing Charlotte, Inside Lacrosse, and McSweeney’s Internet...

3 replies on “Homophobic, racist County Commissioner Bill James running for reelection, here are seven of his worst moments”

  1. When the voters of District 6 fail to vote wisely the whole county suffers, although there is something to be said about “the devil you know.”

  2. My now husband Bill Cooke and I lived in Charlotte in the ’90s when Bill James and Rev. Joe Chambers were outsoken critics of the GLBT “lifestyle”. I remember the day when the GLBT community held a rally over the Angel In America/Arts Funding crisis in front of the Government Center That was the day I met Bill James. He had come out of the Government Center escorted by a security guard. I could not believe it so walked over and introduced myself and chatted with him for a few minutes about the Angels controversy and me being a sexual predator. This began a series of phone calls in which I attempted to correct Bill’s misunderstanding of all things gay. It was hopeless. He was a true believer of his interpretation of the Bible that he said condemned homosexuality. He was as hopeless of a case then as he is now! Being afraid of attending a demonstration attended predominantly by GLBT citizens in front of our own Government Center without a guard protecting him from God knows what speaks volumes about the man.

    And then there was the almighty rapture ready Rev. Joe Chambers who as I had been invited to be on the government Committee charged with having a community dialogue on the de-funding of the Arts. During the preliminaries Joe requested that he be allowed to lead the group in a prayer to God blessing the group at the beginning of each meeting. I asked if we would be praying to the same God that he contended condemned homosexuality as an abomination. He said, “Yes” to which I replied, ” I am sorry but I cannot participate in such a prayer!”. As a result the Committee voted no to have an invocation! After the no vote you should have seen the pie-faced look on Joe’s face, he was stupefied!!!

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