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Wed, 09.07.1859

John Merrick, Businessman born

John Merrick

*John Merrick was born on this date in 1859. He was a Black businessman and entrepreneur.

He was from the town of Clinton in Sampson County, North Carolina. He did not know his father and was raised by his mother, who cared for him and his brother until they could work.  At twelve years old, Merrick worked at a brickyard in Chapel Hill, helping to support his mother. When he was 18, the family moved to Raleigh, N.C., where he continued working on buildings at Shaw University.

During this time, Merrick learned to barber, got married, and became the father of a baby girl named Geneva. Later, he had a son (John Jr.) and another daughter (Martha).  In 1880, he became part-owner of the Merrick and Wright Barber Shop.

Merrick founded North Carolina Mutual Insurance Company in Durham, NC in 1898. This company had a deep impact on Black America in the twentieth century for social as well as financial reasons. Its premium income grew from 1899 $ 840.00 to 1919, 1,224,541.00.  The twenty-first Annual Report of the Company shows that the total amount of insurance in force, which has been written with the Company, was twenty-six and a half million. The company's list of employees in January 1920 was over 1200, with more than 700 agents and 250 medical examiners.

By 1948, it was the largest Black-owned business in the country. Another company he created was the Merrick-Moore-Spaulding Real Estate Company, incorporated on December 8, 1910. This Company is also still operating.  Merrick was spiritual and devoted to his church. He was not a demonstrative religious enthusiast; he was a simple server of his faith. The controlling element in his life was love, and it never occurred to him that lip profession could replace heart service.

He was a close friend of Booker T. Washington with a distinctly different viewpoint, particularly about politics. John Merrick died in 1919.

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