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Bill Leslie's Carolina Conversations

North Carolina Heroes

Posted April 24, 2007 7:54 a.m. EDT

Who are the North Carolina heroes? Who are the people who have helped make this such a great state? I would like to hear your comments.

I was thinking about this while driving to Morganton to participate in the Senator Sam Ervin statue unveiling at the Burke County Courthouse. Senator Sam died 22 years ago after a distinguished career in Washington.

During his last term he served as chairman of the Senate Watergate Committee and became a national hero for getting to the bottom of the Washington scandal with his down-home wit, constitutional knowledge and his probing questions.

Senator Sam called himself "just a country lawyer." He failed to mention that he was a Harvard: Law School graduate. Though he never talked about it Ervin was also a highly decorated soldier for his courage while fighting in France during World War I.

Shortly after joining the Senate Sam Ervin helped investigate the "red scare" and masterfully brought down Senator Joe McCarthy with a brilliant speech about individual rights and freedoms.

Ervin retired in Morganton to "watch the glorious sunsets over Table Rock." Townspeople still celebrate his life with a great sense of reverence.

I had the pleasure of knowing Sam myself beginning at age five as ring bearer in his daughter Laura's wedding. Later I remember Sam trading stories with my father. I recall the personal warmth of Sam Ervin when I was a junior in high school. Sam was there consoling my family on a cold November night after my father died unexpectedly.

Five words sum up Sam Ervin in my opinion: brilliant, funny, courageous, kind and gracious. I would rank him number one on my North Carolina heroes list.