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John Merrick

            John Merrick (1859-1921), businessman and one of the founders of the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company, was born in Clinton, North Carolina. Though he was originally trained as a bricklayer, he became a barber and eventually built and operated five barber shops in Raleigh. As a barber, he came into contact with numerous enterprising businessmen, including J. B. Duke, the tobacco industry magnate, who encouraged Merrick in his ambitions to succeed in the business world.

            Receiving advice from this successful businessman, Merrick saved his profits with the intention of investing them in various business enterprises. In 1899, Merrick and Dr. A.M. Moore established an insurance company and employed C.C. Spaulding as agent and manager. The office of the company was located in a room of Dr. Moore’s office. Spaulding sold his first policy for sixty-five cents but had to pay forty dollars soon afterwards on the death of the policyholder. The news of the payment spread; and by the end of the first year, the company had collected around eight hundred dollars in premiums.

            From this meager, unpretentious beginning, the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company became one of the largest, most successful businesses exclusively owned and controlled by Blacks.*

            Reinvestment of the profits was skillfully handled by Merrick, who was now president of the company as well as of the Mechanics and Farmers Bank, an affiliate of the insurance company. The company officials began a policy of leadership and helped provide civic and educational services for Blacks* in Durham. They sponsored the construction of Lincoln Hospital, which included Merrick as the president of the board of directors, and encouraged educational opportunities, particularly by hiring a rural school supervisor. Merrick, in association with Dr. More, did much to encourage the social business and educational progress of North Carolina Blacks*.


Source: International Library of Negro Life and History by Wilhelmena S. Robinson, Publishers Company, Inc., New York, Washington, London under the auspices of The Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (1967).

*Black has been substituted for the word “Negro” originally used in this citation or the word “Negro” is used in its historical context of respect.








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