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Ě Senator Sam J. Ervin Jr. Library and Museum Ě

"Senator Sam"

Senator Sam was born on September 27, 1896 in Morganton, North Carolina.

He attended public schools in Morganton, North Carolina and obtained his B.A. Degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  The Senator studied law at Harvard University where he received his Bachelor of Laws degree in 1922.

Senator Sam was one of ten children of Samuel James Ervin and Laura Theresa Powe.  He married Miss Margaret Bruce Bell on June 18, 1924 and they raised their children Sam J. Ervin III, Leslie (Mrs. Gerald M Hansler) & Laura (Mrs. William E. Smith) in Morganton.

Senator Ervin and family were members of the First Presbyterian Church of Morganton where the Senator served as Deacon and Elder

Military Service
Senator Ervin served as an infantryman in France during World War I from 1917 - 1919.  He was wounded twice and decorated with the Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Silver Star, and the Distinguished Service Cross, and the French Fourargére, along with other awards.

For thirty years, Senator Sam practiced law in Morganton.  In the 1920's and early 1930's he served three terms in the North Carolina State Assembly.  He was a judge in the Burke County Criminal Court from 1935 - 1937 and was an associate justice in the North Carolina Supreme Court from 1948-1954.  He was elected to fill out the final year of his brother's term in the United States House of Representatives in 1946. 

When United States Senator from North Carolina Clyde R. Hoey died in the summer of 1954, Governor William B. Umstead named Ervin to replace him. 

In 1973 Senator Sam was thrust into national prominence when he was asked to serve as Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities, more commonly known as Watergate.  While he was known throughout his Senate career as its leading authority on Constitutional law, it was during the Watergate Era that he came to be known as the "Defender of the Constitution".

Senator Sam retired from the United States Senate on January 3, 1975 and came home to Morganton where he continued ". . .practicing a little law, doing writing, a little reading, a little talking" and continued to be a mentor to attorneys who came to him seeking help on various legal cases.  He authored several books including "Humor of a Country Lawyer", "Preserving the Constitution", and "The Whole Truth: Watergate". 
He died on April 23, 1985 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and is interred at the Forest Hill Cemetery in Morganton.

Please click here for the official biographical entry for Senator Sam from the  Biographical Directory of the United States Congress


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Senator Sam J. Ervin Jr. Library & Museum, 1001 Burkemont Ave., Morganton, NC 28655   Telephone 828-448-6195
Last modified: 08/19/13 
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