As a young boy growing up in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina, Rufus Edmisten dreamed of a life in politics. Inspired by local politicians, Edmisten gave his first “stump” speech in the field of his family farm to an audience of squirrels, cows, and horses. When he graduated from the University of North Carolina, he moved to Washington, D.C., to attend law school and pursue his lifelong dream. It wasn’t long before he was hired by Senator Sam Ervin of North Carolina. Edmisten learned the ways of the Senate as staff to two of Ervin’s Judiciary Committee subcommittees, Separation of Powers and Constitutional Rights. Edmisten also served as Ervin’s “body man,” driving the senator to his home state on weekends and holidays to campaign and meet with constituents. When Majority Leader Mike Mansfield selected Sam Ervin to chair the investigation into allegations of improprieties and illegal campaign finance during a presidential election year, Edmisten leapt at the chance to work on what later became known as the Senate Watergate Committee. As deputy chief counsel for the majority, he worked closely with committee staff, securing the real estate that the committee needed to conduct a thorough and efficient investigation. During the hearings, he describes working as the senator’s right-hand man, protecting his political interests back home in North Carolina.
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Citation:"Rufus Edmisten: Staff to Senator Sam Ervin, N.C., Subcommittee on Separation of Powers, Subcommittee on Constitutional Rights, and Deputy Chief Counsel, Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities (Watergate Committee) (1964-1974),” Oral History Interviews, May 24, 2011 to August 28, 2012, Senate Historical Office, Washington, D.C.