Dr. Ada Fisher – Injustice fighter

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 25, 2013

SALISBURY — Growing up in the Baptist church her father pastored in Durham, Dr. Ada Fisher saw politician after politician stop in, vying for votes.

“We sort of understood politics is a means by which you can accomplish something,” Fisher said.

She internalized the concept.

Fisher, a Salisbury resident, has served on several school boards and ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate and U.S. House.

The 65-year-old is a licensed physician and a certified math and science teacher. She’s taught classes in middle and high schools, as well as college.

She’s also black, Jewish and the Republican National Committeewoman for North Carolina.

But her political aspirations were forged out of a much different nature than the national political scene.

As Fisher described it, her leap into elected office was “out of necessity.”

In the mid- to late-1980s, Fisher said, she ran for the school board in Oak Ridge, Tenn. It was her first real campaign.

“I was very concerned about the quality of education my son was getting and the lack of resources for him,” Fisher said.

She later ran for a similar position for her son’s high school when they moved near Hyde Park in Chicago. When she moved to Salisbury, Fisher served on the Rowan-Salisbury School Board.

Despite her state and national campaigns, Fisher said, she views herself as an injustice fighter, not a political animal.

“I don’t look at it as being in politics. I look at it as a part of life,” Fisher said. “If you want to fight for what’s right, you have to figure out the venue to get it done. Politics is one venue.”

Her lessons were hard learned, she said.

Fisher received threats from some.

“I’ve had a broken window. I’ve had threats to kill me,” Fisher said. “I had some guy in a grey pickup truck that would come by and harass me and my kids in the morning because we were Republicans and they didn’t like what I said.”

She also found during some campaigns that being a political figure often brings one’s children into the public light.

She declined to get into specifics about the instances or the impact, but said she quickly saw the uglier side of politics.

“I began to realize when you’re a public figure, whether you like it or not, your children are often pawns in the political process. That was sad,” Fisher said. “There was always a struggle in anything I ran for or anything I did about how it would impact them. A lot of it was negative. Some of it was positive.”

Prior to her run against Elizabeth Dole in the primary for a U.S. Senate seat in 2002 and consecutive runs against Congressman Mel Watt in ’04 and ’06, Fisher served on the local school board.

She joined the board in 1998. Looking back, Fisher said, she hopes she brought fresh perspective to Rowan County education.

“I tried to improve education. I tried to make education fair when I was here. I tried to bring some humor to this whole process,” Fisher said.

In an email response, former Rowan-Salisbury School Board chairman David Aycoth said he “bumped-heads furiously” with the outspoken Fisher during their overlapping time on the board.

“Not only did Dr. Fisher openly voice her opinions and desires, I know personally of instances where she used her own funds to donate to help those less-fortunate,” Aycoth wrote.

Known for her passion for children from economically deprived backgrounds, Aycoth said, Fisher also fought for those without sufficient parental support.

Fisher adopted two boys, now young men.

Aycoth said he came to admire Fisher for her tenacity and vigor.

“Even though Dr. Fisher was not serving with me during my last two years on the school board while I was serving as its chairman,” Aycoth said, “her impact during her tenure continued to influence me positively as I made decisions.”

Fisher said she has no plans to run for office again.

But she wouldn’t rule out the possibility.

“It’s not in my plans, in my future. I had a heart attack. I got four stents. I think that one of the things when you have health problems — I kind of enjoy living,” Fisher said. “The stress of running for office is not to be downplayed. My hat goes off to anybody who runs for office because it’s very stressful.”

She wants to focus on her grandchildren, she said, and enjoy family time.

She hopes to continue influencing the Republican Party and said she’s not shying away from the spotlight if she sees legislation she disagrees with.

“I will have something to say about a lot of it behind the scenes,” she said, “and if I don’t like it, I’ll have a lot to say about it in front of the scenes.”

Contact reporter Nathan Hardin at 704-797-4246.