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Dedicated in April 2007, this statue memorializes Samuel “Sam” J. Ervin Jr (1896-1985). Ervin was a prominent North Carolina attorney and United States Senator, who was best known for his efforts leading the Senate Watergate Committee. A leading conservative, Ervin demonstrated the move away from McCarthyism during the Cold War when he helped lead an investigation of Senator Joe McCarthy. In recent years, Ervin's staunch defense of segregation and his opposition to civil rights for African Americans have come to overshadow his positive accomplishments. The statue is currently located outside the Historic Burke County Courthouse.

Sam Ervin Jr. Statue

Building, Window, Door, Standing

Sam Ervin Jr.

Forehead, Smile, Chin, Outerwear

Samuel James Ervin Jr. was born in Morganton, NC in 1896 where he lived until he began studies at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill in 1913. Following his graduation in 1917, Ervin volunteered for the Armed Forces. Upon returning to the United States after World War I in 1919, Ervin began law school at Harvard. While still in law school, Ervin was nominated and won the Burke County state legislature seat as the democratic candidate. Ervin would go on to serve two other state legislature terms, in 1925 and 1931. While in the state legislature, Ervin supported civil liberties and changing judicial procedures, even serving on the Judiciary Committee. 

After serving in the state legislature and before becoming a Senator, Ervin served as a judge in both Burke County Criminal Court and the North Carolina Superior Court. Following, Ervin maintained his law practice and briefly filled in for his brother, Joseph, in the United States House of Representatives after he committed suicide. Ervin was then appointed as a justice to the North Carolina Supreme Court in 1948. 

In 1954, North Carolina Senator Clyde Hoey passed away, and Ervin was picked to fill his seat. His first assignment was on The Select Committee to Study Censure Charges against Senator Joseph McCarthy. He also served on the Rackets Committee between 1957 and 1959. He also served on the Judiciary Committee for almost the entirety of his time in the Senate, which allowed him to continue pursuing support of civil liberties, although he opposed civil rights for African Americans. Ervin supported and sponsored legislation that protected the rights of the mentally ill, military servicemen, and Native Americans. However, Ervin is best known today for his opposition to civil rights legislation. Ervin, like most other white Southerners, opposed school desegregation in 1954, and he opposed each of the major civil rights bills. In 1963, he opposed the Civil Rights Act on the grounds that it threatened civil liberties for white people and he even claimed that the law could lead to government tyranny.

Ervin’s last two years in Senate would become his best known years. In 1973 and 1974, Ervin chaired the Senate's Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities, more commonly known as the Watergate Committee. Ervin believed that Watergate was one of the most serious challenges to the United States Constitution, and his voice as a conservative Southerner was critical to Nixon's resignation.

Ervin decided to not seek reelection after 1974 and retired back home to Morganton where he continued to practice the law. He passed away in 1985 at the age of 88. On the 22nd anniversary of Ervin’s death, a statue memorializing him was erected in his hometown of Morganton, North Carolina. The statue was placed outside of the Historic Burke County Courthouse, where Ervin spent a considerable amount of his career. His grandson, Jimmy Ervin, is quoted as saying: “Being from Burke County was an essential part of who he was. It’s appropriate the statue is placed here at the courthouse, because he spent a good part of his career right here in this building.“

The statue itself is made of bronze, and is accompanied by two granite stone plaques with quotes from Ervin and a brief biography. Some of the quotes reflect Ervin’s love of the constitution and civil liberties. The statue was sponsored by the Morganton Public Arts Council, and it under the custodian of the Historic Burke Foundation. 

“Commemorative Landscapes of North Carolina.” Commemorative Landscapes of North Carolina | Sam Ervin, Jr. Statue, Morganton. UNC University Library, March 19, 2010. 

Ducey, Mitchell F. “Ervin, Samuel James, Jr.” NCpedia. State Library of North Carolina, 1986. 

“Sam Ervin: A Featured Biography.” U.S. Senate: Sam Ervin: A Featured Biography. United States Senate, July 20, 2020. 

“Samuel J. Ervin, Jr.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, inc., April 19, 2021. 

“Statue in Hometown Honors Sam Ervin.” StarNews Online. April 26, 2007. 

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