Former North Carolina state Rep. Joe Tolson dies at 77

TARBORO — A longtime North Carolina Democratic legislator and budget writer who focused on education, technology and the rural economy has died. Nine-term Rep. Joe Tolson of Edgecombe County died Sunday at Vidant Edgecombe Hospital in Tarboro at age 77, his brother said. Norris Tolson said Monday his younger brother died after suffering a breathing and lung ailment for the past couple of years.

Joe Tolson served in the legislature from 1997 through 2014, rising to become a co-chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee. Norris Tolson — himself a former Cabinet secretary — says his brother should be remembered as a strong ally for rural North Carolina, education, children and learning technology. After leaving the legislature, Tolson served on the board of former Gov. Beverly Perdue’s Digital Learning Institute.