An Unexpected Senator’s Column in “The Coastland Times”

Two adults wearing suits shaking hands.  On the left is Bobby Franklin; on the right is former Senator Sam Erwin.
Bobby Franklin (left) shaking hands with Senator Sam Ervin (right).

More issues of The Coastland Times from Manteo, N.C. are now available in our Newspapers of North Carolina collection thanks to our partner, the Dare County Library. These issues span from September 1963 to August 1964 and touch on many regional events of the coast.

A cartoon of Senator Sam Erwin's bust in front of the capitol building. Next to it are the words, "Senator Sam Erwin Says."

Within this span of issues is a column published by former U.S. Senator Samuel J. Ervin Jr. called “Senator Sam Ervin Says.” Ervin was from Morganton, N.C., and was known during his political career for opposing civil rights legislation. The Coastland Times was one of many N.C. papers that published Ervin’s column, including The Jones County Journal (Trenton, N.C.), The Yancy Record (Burnsville, N.C.), The New Bern Mirror (New Bern, N.C.), and The Transylvania Times (Brevard, N.C.).

Ervin’s column stands out today for how it differs from contemporary political propaganda. For one thing, it was published in local papers, which tend to focus on local and regional news. For example, one column from the September 13, 1963 issue runs next to a news brief headlined, “Sea Hags Will Meet,” referring to a local fishing club.

Another notable quality of Ervin’s column is that it is… relatively boring. Rather than employing inflammatory language or focusing on hot-button issues, Ervin tends to give technical overviews of the mechanisms of the Senate. In the column published on October 18, 1963, the Senator references a “controversial Foreign Aid Bill” and then writes, “Present prospects are that there may be no action taken by the Senate as a whole on the tax bill. There is a growing feeling that action on the tax measure should be postponed until after the President’s Budget message to Congress the first of the year.” Even though it is presumably written for a general audience, Ervin often chooses to use technical language and focus on bureaucratic details rather than argue for a bigger picture or stance.

You can read more of Ervin’s unexpected (by contemporary standards) columns and more of The Coastland Times in this latest batch of issues. You can also browse all of our digital newspapers in our North Carolina Newspapers collection. To see more materials from the Dare County Library, visit their partner page and their website.

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