Augustus Summerfield Merrimon
Augustus Summerfield Merrimon
|United States Senator|
from North Carolina
March 4, 1873 – March 4, 1879
|Preceded by||John Pool|
|Succeeded by||Zebulon B. Vance|
|Born||September 15, 1830|
Asheville, North Carolina
|Died||November 14, 1892 (aged 62)|
Raleigh, North Carolina
An attorney from Buncombe County, North Carolina, Merrimon served in the North Carolina House of Commons from 1860 to 1861. He briefly served in the Confederate Army when the American Civil War broke out, but resigned to become solicitor (prosecutor) for North Carolina's eighth judicial district. After the war, Merrimon served as a state superior court judge, then returned to the practice of law, and was an unsuccessful Democratic (at the time, officially called the Conservative Party) candidate for Governor of North Carolina in 1872. With 49.5 percent of the vote, Merrimon lost an extremely close race to incumbent Tod R. Caldwell. 
Merrimon was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1872. He and former Gov. Zebulon B. Vance had already become intense political enemies, though both were affiliated with the Conservative Party. After Vance won the endorsement of the Conservative Party in the legislature, the minority Republicans in the legislature voted with Merrimon's supporters to elect him to the Senate (New York Times, October 14, 1878).
During his term in the Senate, Merrimon gained a reputation as "one of the bitterest partisan Democrats in Congress" (New York Times, October 14, 1878). He was appointed to the 'South Carolina Committee,' a Congressional commission assigned to conduct hearings into voter intimidation and fraud during the 1876 elections in South Carolina—the elections which brought an end to Reconstruction and restored white supremacists to power. The only Democrat on the Committee, Merrimon badgered black and white Republican witnesses and attempted to downplay and excuse white atrocities. A full transcript of the testimony can be found in the 3 bound volumes (South Carolina in 1876) published by the 42nd Congress. After Vance was elected Governor in 1876, he began recruiting candidates to defeat Merrimon supporters in legislative races to lay the groundwork to take Merrimon's seat in the Senate. In the legislative election of 1878, the state Democrats ran two slates in many districts: one pledged to Merrimon and one pledged to Vance. The result was mixed; the Republicans gained 13 seats in the legislature, and the majority Democrats were still divided in their loyalties (Merrimon 40 to Vance 60 with 70 Republicans). The Republican legislators voted for Vance in the election in early 1879, giving him the majority.
After being defeated for re-election, Merrimon served as an Associate Justice (1883–1889) and then Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court (1889 until his death in 1892). Merrimon Avenue in Asheville is named in his memory.
| U.S. Senator (Class 3) from North Carolina
Served alongside: Matt W. Ransom
Zebulon B. Vance
William Nathan Harrell Smith
| Chief Justice of North Carolina Supreme Court
James E. Shepherd