Segregationist cause welcomed ‘unreconstructed’ Ervin

“Weeks after the Brown [vs. Board of Education decision in 1954], the press hailed the latest poster boy for the ‘soft Southern approach’…. Samuel J. Ervin, a Harvard-educated state Supreme Court justice, arrived in Washington ready to lend his legal expertise and ‘country lawyer’  charm to the segregationist cause.

“Governor William Umstead tapped Ervin to complete the term of Clyde Hoey, who died in his office…. Ervin privately boasted that he was as ‘unrepentant and unreconstructed’ as Hoey, a Confederate captain’s son….

“Leaders of the Southern opposition saw in Ervin a fresh face that could elevate the segregationist defense above the white supremacist rhetoric of their fathers’ generation.”

— From “Defending White Democracy: The Making of a Segregationist Movement and the Remaking of Racial Politics, 1936-1965” by Jason Morgan Ward (2011)


A legislator’s lagniappe for life insurance

In addition to being a Chapel Hill insurance agent, John Umstead was the brother of Gov. William Umstead, the UNC roommate of Frank Porter Graham and, as a legislator, the impassioned reformer of the state’s mental health hospitals.

He seems to have given this paperweight-mirror to policyholders such as Mrs. W. S. Kutz. Insurance mirrors were a popular giveaway for several decades, but the signature is an uncommon device — likely  printed on the stock design before it was covered in celluloid.