Liston Bryan Ramsey (February 26, 1919-September 2, 2001), businessman, North Carolina representative, North Carolina Speaker of the House, and civic leader, was born at Walnut Creek, Madison County, North Carolina, to John Morgan Ramsey and Della Lee Bryan Ramsey.
Liston Ramsey was the valedictorian of his graduating class at Marshall High School in 1936 and completed his Associate’s degree in Business from Mars Hill College. Upon graduation in 1938, Ramsey enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps where he served as a Sergeant in the Pacific Theater during World War II (1943-1945). After leaving the Army, Ramsey undertook several business ventures in his home county before being elected to the Marshall Board of Alderman for twelve years (1948-1960).
Running as a Democrat, Ramsey won a seat in the North Carolina House of Representatives in 1960. Ramsey went on to serve for nineteen terms in the 1961, 1963, and 1967 through 1999 sessions of the North Carolina General Assembly, becoming one of the most well-respected and influential members and earning the nickname, “the Mountain Populist.”
In 1981, Ramsey was elected Speaker of the House of the North Carolina House of Representatives, a position he held for a record four consecutive terms, making him the first legislator to do so. During his tenure as Speaker, it was often said that Ramsey’s power and influence exceeded that of even the governors. While in office, Ramsey is known for attempting to secure legislative and financial support for the often-overlooked western counties of the state. Those in Raleigh with him remember him stating on several occasions that the state did not end at Statesville. Ramsey is credited with securing state funds for public roads projects, educational institutions, health and wellness facilities, and agricultural improvements throughout the western region of the state. Some of Ramsey’s most important contributions include securing funding for the Liston B. Ramsey Activity Center on the campus of Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, North Carolina; the Western North Carolina Farmers Market; the Western North Carolina Agricultural Center; the North Carolina Arboretum; and the North Carolina Experimental Station in Buncombe County, North Carolina.
Facing opposition from a coalition of both Republican and Democratic legislators and Republican Governor James G. Martin, Ramsey was ousted as Speaker of the House in 1989. After his defeat, Ramsey continued to remain an influential member of the state legislature up until his retirement in 1999 due to health issues.
In 1940, Ramsey married Florence McDevitt Ramsey. They were the parents of one daughter, Martha Louise Ramsey Banks. Florence Ramsey passed away in 2001 followed by Liston, who died in September 2001 after a period of declining health.