Senator Sam Ervin of North Carolina was arguably one of the most important political figures of the twentieth century. His commitment to the Constitution and willingness to stare down executive power during the 1973 Watergate hearings place him among the great conservative voices in Senate history. Ervin was first and foremost a Tar Heel. He considered his election to the North Carolina legislature in 1922 to be as important as his appointment to the United States Senate in 1954. He favored his front porch more than his Senate office, and he always fought for the people of his State, regardless of the consequences.

Ervin personified the Southern statesman. His penchant for folksy humor and homespun story telling hid a supremely gifted legal mind. But he was also a great “peopleticker” who cherished the opportunity to get out among his constituents and press the flesh. This is why the left could never hold his opposition to Civil Rights legislation against him. He was too kind, too disarming, and too charming to be a “racist Nazi.” Of course, Ervin held his seat before the modern pogroms on all things Southern and the violent woke social justice warriors became ascendant. In fact, Ervin and Joe Biden’s time in the Senate overlapped by one year. Ervin never had anything to say about Biden, but Biden fondly remembered these old Democrats who taught him the ropes. That, of course, got Biden into some hot water during the 2020 campaign as he suggested he admired some of these Southern statesmen. It wasn’t so long ago that Biden happily sided with Southern Democrats and even considered his home State a part of the South. That Democratic Party has disappeared, much to the detriment of the United States and particularly conservative Americans.

These two short videos show why Americans loved Senator Sam in the 1970s.  Not only has Senator Sam’s Democratic Party gone the way of the dodo bird, so has Ervin’s brand of statesmanship and his warm North Carolina accent. The establishment American “conservative” is now a stiff Mitt Romney with a Mike Pence accent, a Liz Cheney love affair for Abraham Lincoln’s aggressive national regime, and a John McCain foreign policy. Ervin was a dinosaur, even in 1973. He just hadn’t been fossilized yet.


Note: The views expressed on are not necessarily those of the Abbeville Institute.

Brion McClanahan

Brion McClanahan is the author or co-author of six books, How Alexander Hamilton Screwed Up America (Regnery History, 2017), 9 Presidents Who Screwed Up America and Four Who Tried to Save Her (Regnery History, 2016), The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Founding Fathers, (Regnery, 2009), The Founding Fathers Guide to the Constitution (Regnery History, 2012), Forgotten Conservatives in American History (Pelican, 2012), and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Real American Heroes, (Regnery, 2012). He received a B.A. in History from Salisbury University in 1997 and an M.A. in History from the University of South Carolina in 1999. He finished his Ph.D. in History at the University of South Carolina in 2006, and had the privilege of being Clyde Wilson’s last doctoral student. He lives in Alabama with his wife and three daughters.


  • Albert Alioto says:

    I cherish Brion McClahanan. Regarding Senator Ervin — may he rest in peace — I will offer the strongest possible dissent. During the Watergate hearings Ervin openly proclaimed that he thought Watergate had surpassed the Civil War as the greatest tragedy in America’s history. Only an absolutely insane person could have said such a thing.

    Any suggestion that those who opposed Nixon during Watergate were contending for a more restrained view of executive power is quite laughable in light of what they have done with executive power when their side has held the White House. The Watergate scandal should be judged by the fact that it was played out in an atmosphere in which a leading senator could declare a third-rate burglary a worse tragedy than the Civil War and not be considered insane.

  • MD says:

    He seemed like a generally affable and congenial man. Too bad he made some really horrendous votes, including in favor of the 1965 Immigration Act. That vote has done more to destroy the country than even the CR Act of 1964. The fact that “Ted Kennedy lied to us” is no excuse. When did a Kennedy tell the truth?

  • Alfred White says:

    With respect, I also disagree with Mr. McClanahan. I am old enough to remember pretty well the Watergate hearings and Senator Sam Ervin struck me as insufferably self-righteous. I also seem to remember that he was almost beside himself when John Ehrlichman and H. R. Haldeman refused to grovel and whine for mercy in front of his committee.
    President Richard Nixon may not have been the most likeable man in the world, but I never could quite understand the venomous hatred that so many had towards him.

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