JUST A COUNTRY LAWYER: A Biography of Senator Sam Ervin by Paul R. Clancy

JUST A COUNTRY LAWYER: A Biography of Senator Sam Ervin

Email this review


The Bible-quoting prime mover behind the Watergate hearings was almost 58 when he was appointed in 1954 to fill the vacancy occasioned by the death of the Senator from North Carolina. His career in local politics -- which is only of interest insofar as it was seminal to his inestimable influence on Constitutional law -- takes up fully half of this first biography of our newest ""genuine American folk hero,"" and consequently the author stints us on the big stuff -- Ervin's brilliant collisions with Joe McCarthy, Jimmy Hoffa and Bobby Kennedy (on civil rights); the razzle-dazzle (if questionable) arguments in opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment for women; his opposition to federal intervention in segregated Southern schools which endeared him to conservatives while, on the other hand, he was gaining a reputation as a civil libertarian for his authorship of ""bills of rights"" for groups not protected under the Constitution (Indians, mental patients, soldiers); his fight against wiretapping and the curtailing of the rights of the accused; his hearings on data banks and the massive intelligence operations of the Army and the Subversive Activities Control Board; his support of freedom of the press. Having thus dedicated himself to checking the powers of federal government, Sam Ervin remarked upon his appointment to the Watergate Committee, ""It seems that everything I've been working on since I went to the Senate is coming to a head this year."" But the mournfully slim chapter allotted to Ervin's climactic role in the most sensational scandal in American political history only skates over the complexities of a lawmaker whose record suggests he is a more canny fox than the corny, lovable old teddy bear we've seen on the screen -- and we must look forward to the distinguished Senator's own memoirs for a look beneath the surface of the public man.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1974
Publisher: Indiana Univ. Press