Sam Ervin Ervin served first as an officer, then as an enlisted soldier in combat in France during World War I. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the Silver Star and two Purple Hearts. He graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1917 and from Harvard Law School in 1922, with his military service sandwiched between his academic studies. Ervin was fond of saying that he was the only student to ever go through Harvard Law "backwards," because he took the third-year courses first, then the second-year courses, and finally the first-year courses.
Already admitted to the Bar in 1919, before completing law school, Ervin entered politics straight out of Harvard. Even before he had received his degree, Democrats in Burke County, NC had nominated him in absentia for the North Carolina House of Representatives, to which he was elected in 1922, 1924, and 1930. Ervin also was elected and served as a state judge in the late 1930s and early 1940s.
When his brother, U.S. Representative Joseph Wilson Ervin, committed suicide in late 1945, Sam Ervin filled the remainder of his term in Congress but did not seek re-election, allegedly vowing to never step foot in Washington, D.C. again.