Augustus Summerfield Merrimon

7th NC Supreme Court Chief Justice

Date Born: September 15, 1830

Date Died: November 14, 1892

       
       
       
Place Born: Transylvania County, NC

Place Buried: Oakwood Cemetery in Raleigh, NC

 

Chief Justice 1889-1892
Associate Justice 1883-1889
 

Augustus Summerfield Merrimon was born on September 15, 1830 in Buncombe County (what later became Transylvania County), NC, the son of Branch Hamline Merrimon and Mary Evelyn (Paxton) Merrimon. His family moved to Hooper's Creek, about fourteen miles from Asheville, NC. His education consisted of informal schooling, boarding school, and reading law. His father emphasized the importance of learning and required him to read aloud at night. He also attended irregularly the classes of A. T. Livingston, who taught at a schoolhouse on the Merrimon farm. He also attended Norwood's Male Academy.

For a year, Augustus Summerfield Merrimon read law, together with his newfound friend and later political enemy, Zebulon Baird Vance, under John W. Woodfin of Asheville. He was admitted to the NC bar in January of 1852.

On September 14, 1852, Augustus Summerfield Merrimon married Margaret Jane Baird, daughter of Israel and Mary Tate Baird; they had six children.

Prior to the U.S. Civil War, Augustus Summerfield Merrimon was Solicitor of Buncombe County.

In 1860, Augustus Summerfield Merrimon was elected to represent Buncombe County in the NC House of Commons of the:
- 73rd General Assembly that met from 1860 to 1861

On May 3, 1861, Augustus Summerfield Merrimon enlisted as a Private in the Rough-and-Ready Guard of Buncombe County, which was folded into the 14th NC Regiment as Company F, originally led by Captain Zebulon Baird Vance, then by Captain James M. Gudger. In June of 1861, he accepted a Captain's commission in the Commissary Department and was stationed at Hatteras, Ocracoke, Weldon, and Raleigh.

In the Fall of 1861, Judge Robert S. French appointed him Solicitor of the mountainous 8th Judicial District, a position he continued to hold after election by the legislature in 1862.

In 1866, Augustus Summerfield Merrimon was elected as a Judge of the 8th Judicial District. Twice the Federal occupation force ordered him to quash indictments, but he resigned the judgeship in 1867 rather than submit to military orders.

He then moved his family to Raleigh and established a law partnership with Samuel Field Phillips.

In 1872, Augustus Summerfield Merrimon ran unsuccessfully as governor.

In 1873, Augustus Summerfield Merrimon was elected to represent North Carolina in the U.S. Senate of the:
- 43rd U.S. Congress that met from 1873 to 1875
- 44th U.S. Congress that met from 1875 to 1877
- 45th U.S. Congress that met from 1877 to 1879

In 1873, Augustus Summerfield Merrimon established a law partnership with Thomas Charles Fuller and Samuel A'Court Ashe in Raleigh, NC. This partnership continued for six years, when Ashe resigned.

On September 29, 1883, Governor Thomas Jordan Jarvis appointed Augustus Summerfield Merrimon as an Associate Justice on the NC Supreme Court, replacing Associate Justice Thomas Ruffin, Jr., who had recently resigned. He remained until he was made Chief Justice.

On November 16, 1889, Governor David Gould Fowle appointed Augustus Summerfield Merrimon as Chief Justice of the NC Supreme Court, replacing Chief Justice William Nathan Harrell Smith, who had died two days earlier, while on the bench. He was elected in 1890, and remained as Chief Justice until his death.

On November 14, 1892, Augustus Summerfield Merrimon died of diabetes, and he was buried in the Oakwood Cemetery in Raleigh, NC.


Appointed Chief Justice on November 16, 1889 by Governor David G. Fowle. Elected as Chief Justice in the general election in 1890.
Augustus Summerfield Merrimon (15 September 1830 – 14 November 1892) was a Democratic US Senator from the state of North Carolina between 1873 and 1879.

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 US Senate in 1872. He and former Governor 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.

During his term in the Senate, Merrimon gained a reputation as "one of the bitterest partisan Democrats in Congress." 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 Zebulon B. 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.


Augustus S. Merrimon was born in what is now Transylvania County in September of 1830.

In 1860, he was elected to the House of Commons.

In 1861, he entered the army as quartermaster with the rank of Captain, but was soon elected Solicitor and served until the end of the war.

He was elected a Judge of the NC Superior Court in 1866, but resigned in August of 1867, rather than obey orders issued by the Union military.

He was a candidate of the Democrat party for the NC Supreme Court in 1868, but was defeated.

He was a candidate for Governor in 1872, but was again defeated, but in 1873 he was elected a US Senator and served until 1879.

On the resignation of Justice Thomas Ruffin, Jr. in 1883, he was appointed to the NC Supreme Court and was re-elected in the next election.

On the death of Chief Justice William N.H. Smith in November of 1889, he was appointed by Governor David G. Fowle as Chief Justice and served three years until his death in November of 1892.


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