Galesburg Register-Mail from Galesburg, Illinois on June 18, 1973 · Page 12
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Galesburg Register-Mail from Galesburg, Illinois · Page 12

Galesburg, Illinois
Issue Date:
Monday, June 18, 1973
Page 12
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SUPER VALU QUALITY, AT THE BEST POSSIBLE PRICE 12 ftatesbura ftegister*Mai)>GdlesbufQ,...ll'l. Monday, June 18,1973 Sam Ervin! Senator's 'Sense of Duty' Leads to Role in Hearings By IRA BERKOW NEA Senior Editor WASHINGTON — "Get some dirt on Ervin." This order was allegedly issued by H. R. (Bob) Haldeman, then White House chief of staff,'to Republican officials in North Carolina. Though the incident is relatively old news, the reaction gives current insight into Sen. Sam Ervin, the North Carolina Democrat. x First in a Series North Carolina officials considered the smear directive absurd because, sadd Charles Jonas Jr., who headed the last two presidential campaigns for Richard Nixon in North Carolina,"Ervin's standing is impeccable." As for Ervin himself, he recalled that report now as he sat in his book-lined office in the Old Senate Office Building. "I wasn't concerned.," said the 76-year-old senator, in his pebbled, easy resonance. "The statute of limitations long since run off on all my misdeeds." WHEN ERVIN ACCEPTED the chairmanship of the Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities (the "Watergate" committee) he did so with the knowledge that he would be taking some risks. Ervin is among several men and women who have distinguished themselves in the otherwise squalid Watergate case. There is, for example, Chief Judge John J. Sirica of the U.S. District Court in Washington who faced possible ridicule and recriminations in his dramatic and successful attempt to probe deeper into the truth of the Watergate burglary. There is, for another, Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham. Despite one of the most blistering attacks by any administration ever upon a newspaper, she encouraged the continued investigative reporting on Watergate. Ervin knew that his phone could be tapped, his tax returns pulled, his state deprived of federal aid and projects. If the hearings were considered partisan or ineffective or laughable, he could be disgraced. He knew he might incur the wrath of his constituents. And he was right—about some. He has been accused in recent weeks of "trying to crucify the President," of being a "disgusting publicity seeker," of being both a pawn of the "lying press" and a tool of the liberals. He also knew some people would be bored or made "sick and tired" of the continuing investigation. WHY DID ERVIN expose himself to such risks? "Duty," he said. "Duty is the sublimest word in our language. I remember reading something Robert E. Lee told his son, Curtis Lee, when the boy went off to school at West Point. He said, "Do your duty in all things. You can't do more and you should never wish to do less." "I thought about the problem facing us now. I came to an intellectually honest conclusion, and then I did what I felt was right, regardless of the consequences. "I also know this might not have been popular with a lot of folks. There is a human instinct not to want to face evil. For those people, the sun is always shining." (However, letters to the Senate committee were recently running 11-1 in its favor.) "If I made any contribution to all this," said Ervin, "it is that I said the Senate committee, by decree of the United States Supreme Court, has the right to subpoena any witness it wants, with no exceptions." Ervin, the highly respected constitutional lawyer, swept aside the President's umbrella-like interpretation of executive privilege by calling it "executive poppycock." And he seriously threatened to have any White House aide flung in the clink for contempt if he refused to comply. "Sometimes." said Ervin, "it takes a whole lot to stir people." HE WAS CHOSEN BY a landslide Sen­ ate vote to head the Select Committee for three reasons. First, as Sen. Mike Mansfield said, Ervin was the only man we could have picked on either side of the aisle who'd have the respect of the Senate as a whole." Second, he had judicial experience- six years on the North Carolina Supreme Court and six years on the North Carolina Superior Court. Third, he was not a presidential aspirant who could be accused of seeking national political gain. And with the televising of the Watergate hearings, Ervin has become a most highly recognizable national figure, this after 18 years in the Senate. If courage and principle make a hero, then Ervin seems to fit the description. Yet he is an unlikely looking hero, if one goes by raw-boned Hollywood ideals. He sits in the middle of the long table in the hearing room as he and fellow committee members interrogate witnesses. His heavy eyebrows flutter nervously over dark- rimmed glasses. Jowls jounce. Lower lip is; trembly. A fattish hawk nose. Strands of white hair part from the middle of his forehead and resemble a bird's wings flapping. ; HE WILL JAB the air with a craggy arthritic finger and puncture a silly statement by a witness. ("When you've been interrogated by Sen. Ervin," said Sen. Howard Baker, R-Tenn., committee vice chairman, "you've been interrogated by the best.") Though he is no clown, he can be clownish. When a crank in the visitors' gallery shouted that he was now running for president, Ervin retorted, "This is not the proper forum to announce a candidacy for president." Ervin's blue eyes were merry as the staid Senate hearing room broke up. He is Southern homespun, but a graduate of Harvard Law School; He is avuncular, a Bible-quoter, but also pragmatic. "Don'fc be misled, he's a politician like the rest of us, only less so," said a peer on Capitol Hill who has known him for years. In short, Ervin is human— a most appealing quality in an age and administration of impenetrable plastic. "WATERGATE," SAID ERVIN, "is a great tragedy for the country. But a government operating on a suppression of truth is worse. This country is no monarchy, where the king can do no wrong. And where it is treason to say so. We can't emulate ostriches and stick our heads in the sand." Ervin had first to conquer himself before he could realize his own strengths. A problem in his younger days was his being "high-strung," as he puts it. He developed ulcers. He knew he had to curb his violent temper. He read Dale Carnegie's book, "How to Stop Worrying and Start Living." "I learned not to regret yesterday and not to be concerned with tomorrow and the day after tomorrow," he said. "It's like the old black man who said, 'I have learned to cooperate with the inevitable.' " So Sam Ervin has not had an ulcer symptom in 35 years. He can also tell you that at 11:20 a.m. on May 10, 1940, he quit smoking. He felt cigarettes were ruining his life. He decided to take over again, and hasn't smoked since. He has learned that, when you admit a problem and then are honestly determined to right it, you can. He relates this philosophy to the Watergate scandal. "DESPITE THE TRAVAIL of the moment, the country will be better for it," he said. "Men in public office will become more responsible. There will be less secrecy. And leaders will understand that they are not kings who rule by divine right. "I think we can make our mistakes stepping stones to higher things." (NEXT: Two-fisted Judge) Moline Man Dies in Boating Accident ROCK ISLAND HI (UPI)- persons in the boat ctag to 1 "craft went over Vernon McLean of Mo ine died ) np fl »w ,u„, 7. o ,,.h„ n- V Sunday when a boat on which \° r8 * Gf ."7 v ; ere thrown ""^jes M,d he was a passenger was swept ifrom the boat and "~~ ! McLedn over a dam on the Rock River. Authorities said two other pulled to safety. 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