Affiliated with both the Democratic Party and the Blue Dog Coalition of moderate-to-conservative-leaning Democrats, he represented North Carolina's seventh district as a member of the United States Congress.
He earned both his undergraduate degree in political science and his Juris Doctor from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
While in the U.S. House of Representatives, he served on the Committees of Agriculture and Armed Services.
He was born and raised in Lumberton, North Carolina. His marriage to Dee Strickland resulted in two sons: Stephen and Joshua.
He and Republican politician Richard Burr both represented North Carolina in the United States Congress during the last decade of the 20th century and the first decade of the 21st century.