Skip to main content
UNC Libraries

Letter: Sam Ervin to Lela Chesson, Feb 3, 1975

Letter: Sam Ervin to Lela Chesson, Feb 3, 1975
Letter: Sam Ervin to Lela Chesson, Feb 3, 1975

Item Information


Letter: Sam Ervin to Lela Chesson, Feb 3, 1975


Sam J. Ervin Papers, Subgroup B: Private Papers #3847B, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Special Collections Library, UNC-CH


In the public domain and may be used without copyright restriction.


still image



Morganton, North Carolina 28655
February 3, 1975

Mrs. Lela Chesson
Evening & Sunday Telegram
150 Howard Street
Rocky Mount, North Carolina 27801

Dear Mrs. Chesson:

This is to acknowledge receipt of your letter of January 29, 1975, in which you make reference to the article written by Professor Emerson and three lady lawyers entitle “The Equal Rights Amendment — A Constitutional Basis For Equal Rights For Women,” which appeared in Yale Law Journal for April 1971.

With all due deference, I deny the validity of your opinion that the minority report on the Equal Rights Amendment lifts portions of this article out of context, and thus distorts their meaning.

Having been in political life for approximately 52 years, I have accused by many persons of many things. You have the distinction, however, of being the first person I have ever had to discard me with being intellectually dishonest.

As a result of your letter, I have spent many hours reading the debates on the ERA, the Yale Law Journal article, and the minority report. As a consequence, I assert most emphatically that the minority report puts the right construction on the Yale Law Journal article, and that everything which appears in the minority report sustains my assertion.

Senator Mike Mansfield, the Democratic Leader of the Senate, and Senator Birch Bayh, who was the Floor Manager of the ERA in the Senate debates, heard virtually everything I had to say against the unwisdom of adding the ERA to the Constitution. At the end of the debates, …

Page 2 - Mrs. Chesson
February 3, 1975

Senator Mansfield had this to say about me: “I honor him for the intellectual integrity he has displayed.” (Congressional Record, Volume 118, Part 8, Page 9568)

Senator Birch Bayh had this to say at the conclusion of the debates: “I join in the remarks just made by the distinguished Majority Leader relative to the part the distinguished Senator from North Carolina (Mr. Ervin) has played in this debate. As I said, earlier, I cannot think of a more tenacious, dedicated, sincere, and worthy adversary than he.” (Congressional Record, Volume 118, Part 8, Page 9598)

As a matter of fact, two recent decisions of the Supreme Court, Reed v. Reed, 404 U.S. 71, and Taylor v. Louisiana, which was handed down on January 21, 1975, sustained completely my contention that the Equal Rights Amendment is totally unnecessary. The first of these cases holds that a statute is unconstitutional if it tends to give a man superior right over a woman on the basis of sex, and the second holds that a statute is unconstitutional if it attempts to relieve a woman of a public duty similar to that which the law imposes upon a man.

Sincerely yours,
Sam J. Ervin, Jr.