North Carolina-Lee Overman-October 30

North Carolina People, Places, and Things-October 30

I am the dad to five adult children. As they were growing up I attempted to remind them they were special and to implore them to learn something new. My goal was to do that daily.

In 2016 my goal is to learn something new daily on the people, places, and things that make North Carolina special. Everyday this year I am doing a post on what I have learned new.

Lee S Overman was born in 1854 in Salisbury, NC. He was the son of William and Mary Overman. Lee completed his formal education in Rowan County, and he enrolled at Trinity College which today is Duke University. He graduated in 1874 and taught at a school in Winston-Salem for two years, eventually earning a master of arts from Trinity.


Senator married Mary Paxton Merrimon, daughter of Senator Augustus S. Merrimon, in 1878, and they had three daughters.

Overman first became involved in North Carolina politics when he served as secretary to both Governor Zeb Vance from 1877 until 1878 and Thomas Jarvis in 1879. During his time as Vance’s secretary, Lee studied law and in 1878, he was admitted to the North Carolina bar. In 1880, Overman opened a law firm in his hometown of Salisbury, but he soon reentered politics as a candidate for North Carolina’s House of Representatives.

Elected in 1882, Lee S. Overman won reelection four subsequent times – in 1885, 1887, 1893, and 1899. In 1893, Overman was the Speaker of the House and a year later, Overman became president of the North Carolina Railroad Company.

On July 11, 1851, the North Carolina Railroad Company held its ground-breaking ceremony in Greensboro. The North Carolina Railroad Company was not the state’s first railroad line, but its creation marked the culmination of two decades of both lawmakers’ efforts and private development across North Carolina. It was the first rail line founded by the state and owned predominantly by it, and the company—together with its predecessors— would play a pivotal role in North Carolina’s economic development.

Today the North Carolina Railroad Company owns and manages the 317-mile rail corridor extending from Morehead City to Charlotte, and related commercial properties.


The railroad carries 60-plus freight trains and ten passenger trains daily. Its mission is to develop the unique North Carolina Railroad assets for the good of the people of North Carolina.

Getting back to Lee Overman. After several years in the North Carolina General Assembly, he tried his hand at the national political arena in a 1903 Senate race with Locke Craig.

Overman defeated future governor Craig, starting his near three decade senatorial service. Upon his reelection in 1914, Senator Overman “became the first U.S. senator from North Carolina to be elected by popular vote.

Senator Overman was a faithful Democrat during his tenure and some of his primary accomplishments resulted from his support of President Woodrow Wilson. Overman bolstered the executive power of Wilson’s administration when he proposed the Overman Act of 1918. The act supplied the president with additional economic and war power during World War I. Additional achievements of Overman’s career include his aid in forming the Department of Labor, supporting the Clayton Anti-Trust Act, and in giving the crucial Senate vote in approving Louis Brandeis for the Supreme Court.

Overman passed away in Washington, D.C., on December 12, 1930 while still serving as a US Senator, and his remains were interred at Chestnut Hill Cemetery in Rowan County.





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