Sam Ervin gave pocket Constitution its star turn

“Susan Herman, president of the ACLU, said the first instance she knows of when prominent politicians used pocket Constitutions for effect was during the Watergate hearings. Sen. Sam Ervin, a North Carolina Democrat, chaired the Senate Select Committee to Investigate Campaign Practices—also known as the Watergate Committee (or even the Ervin Committee)—and the hearings were televised. Ervin used to pull out his pocket copy of the Constitution during the hearings, and it made a powerful visual impact.

“ ‘That was really important, because Watergate was so much a moment of paying attention to the Constitution,’ Herman said. ‘The fact that there was this visual and personal symbol of somebody who was paying very careful attention to exactly what the Constitution said I think was really important in the history of the Watergate hearings.’ ”

–From “The History of the Pocket Constitution: How mini-Constitutions became popular long before the Tea Party” by Betsy Woodruff at Slate (Jan. 28)