1981: Indiana governor nets Carolina hog in basketball bet

Posted at 5:30 AM, Apr 01, 2021

INDIANAPOLIS — It’s not every day that a hog is greeted by the governor of Indiana outside the Statehouse, but that’s exactly what happened on April 8, 1981.

That’s when a 200-pound sow named Suzy Q met her new owner, Indiana Governor Robert Orr.

How the 17-month-old hog ended up in the possession of Indiana’s governor has a lot to do with the governor of North Carolina at the time, Gov. James B. Hunt Jr.

Gov. Hunt was a big supporter of the North Carolina Tar Heels, and during the 1981 NCAA basketball tournament, the governor went hog wild with his support of the team.

Hunt bet the governors of several states on the outcome of the UNC games.

According to The News & Observer, Hunt won with several wagers. Winnings including:

  • Three pounds of honey from Utah Gov. Scott Matheson
  • Steaks from Kansas Gov. John Carlin
  • Virginia ham and Chesapeake Bay oysters from Virginia Gov. John Dalton and Lt. Gov Charles Robb respectively

Hunt’s final wager in the tournament that year came when the UNC Tar Heels faced the Indiana University Hoosiers in the championship game.

Indiana Governor Robert Orr accepted the challenge.

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While Hunt wagered a Yorkshire hog on the outcome of the game, Orr wagered a Duroc hog.

Bobby Knight ended up leading IU to victory over UNC for the national title in a 63–50 victory.

In the days following the game, tensions began to simmer. Orr began publicly dropping hints that Hunt might back out of the deal.

At one point, Orr’s press secretary threatened to draw up extradition papers for the pig.

Ultimately, people across North Carolina were good sports, pitching in to make good on the deal.

With the help of State Senator Harold Hardison, a hog was located on the farm of John Howard in Deep Run, North Carolina.

Howard, a supporter of the governor, agreed to provide the hog free of charge.

On April 8, 1981, Howard’s daughter, Leraine Howard and her boyfriend Ben Outlaw, arrived at the Indiana Statehouse in a yellow Chevrolet LUV pickup truck with a pig in tow.

In the bed of the truck was a custom-built wooden crate compliments of the South Lenoir High School carpentry class.

An art class from the school painted, “Congratulations Gov. Orr,” on the side of the crate as well as the score from the game.

Governor Orr gingerly made his way down the Statehouse steps and gleefully greeting the prized pig.

“Oh, look at that! Hey!”

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The governor then spoke with Howard, Outlaw and the media who had gathered around the truck.

“It smells like a hog too,” quipped Orr.

WRTV tracked down both Governor Hunt and Leraine Howard, now Leraine Tolston, for this story. Each was asked to share their recollections of the unique bet 40 years ago.

“Governor Orr was a real gentleman," Hunt said.

"He was obviously an effective political leader, but he was a very nice, kind person. It was fun to have a bet with him and the better man won that time, and a few years later, I don’t know if I bet him again, but we won our fair share since.”

Tolston says it was a long but exciting journey.

“It was an honor to meet Governor Orr,” Tolston said.

“We slid the box off at the capitol with reporters snapping pictures. Grown-ups having fun. Smiling laughing, which is not seen too much today.”

The following week, Governor Orr invited the Hoosiers to celebrate with a feast.

Suzy Q became known as Bobby’s Bacon, in honor of Bobby Knight.

“While we were very, very, sorry to lose the game," Hunt said.

"I was pleased that the good people of Indiana were able to benefit and enjoy eating some of the finest pork to be found anywhere - far superior than any pork produced by Duroc hogs in Indiana. The minute they tasted it, they realized this is the best pork they ever tasted.”

Former WRTV reporter Norman Cox questioned Orr at the dinner noting an abundance of pork at the meal.

“All pigs have the same number of ribs, and I don’t think it had as many as we’ve counted here today.”

To which Orr replied, “When Eve was created from Adam’s rib, that’s sort of the way this has expanded too.”