Overman, Lee S. (Lee Slater), 1854-1930

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1854-01-03
Death 1930-12-12
English

Biographical notes:

Lee Slater Overman, lawyer, legislator, and U.S. senator, was born in Salisbury, N.C., where he opened a law office and served as president of the Salisbury Savings Bank. In 1878, he married Mary Paxton Merrimon, and they had three daughtrs. In 1882, he was elected to the state House of Representatives and was reelected four times, serving as speaker of the House for the 1893 session. In 1914, Overman became the first U.S. senator from North Carolina to be elected by popular vote, having been previously appointed to the seat by the state legislature in 1902 and again in 1909.

Despite his political conservatism, Overman supported most of the Federal Reserve Act, the income tax law, and federal assistance to farmers. He wrote and sponsored the Overman Act of 1918, which gave the president extraordinary powers to coordinate government agencies in wartime. However, Overman stood firm in his conservatism as a leader of southern resistance to woman suffrage. Overman served almost 28 years on Capitol Hill.

From the description of Lee S. Overman papers, 1918-1931 [manuscript]. (Oceanside Free Library). WorldCat record id: 23658557

Lee Slater Overman (1854-1930), lawyer, legislator, and U.S. senator, was born in Salisbury, N.C., the son of William H. and Mary E. Slater Overman. Overman graduated from Trinity College in 1874. For the next two years he taught at one of the state's first public schools in Winston, and in 1876, Trinity awarded him a master of arts degree. A lifelong Methodist and friend of public education, Overman served on the board of trustees of Duke University and The University of North Carolina. Both schools awarded him an honorary LL.D. degree, as did Davidson College.

Overman worked in the 1876 gubernatorial campaign of Zebulon B. Vance and subsequently became Governor Vance's private secretary. During these years, Overman read law and was admitted to the North Carolina bar in 1878. That same year he married Mary Paxton Merrimon, the daughter of Augustus Summerfield Merrimon, a U.S. senator and chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court. They eventually had three daughters: Margaret Gregory, Kathryn Hambley, and Grace Snow. Another daughter and a son died in infancy.

In 1880, Overman opened his own law office in Salisbury and became president of the Salisbury Savings Bank. In 1882, he was elected to the state House of Representatives, and was reelected four times, serving as speaker of the House for the 1893 session. In 1914, Overman became the first U.S. senator from North Carolina to be elected by popular vote, having been previously appointed to the seat by the state legislature in 1902 and again in 1909.

Despite his political conservatism, Overman supported most of the measures of the Wilson administration, including the Federal Reserve Act, the income tax law, and federal assistance to farmers. He wrote and sponsored the Overman Act of 1918, which gave the president extraordinary powers to coordinate government agencies in wartime. The senator also worked for the creation of a Department of Labor and for passage of the Clayton Anti-Trust Act. Through Josephus Daniels, President Wilson persuaded Overman to cast the deciding vote for the confirmation of Louis D. Brandeis for the U.S. Supreme Court. However, Overman stood firm in his conservatism as a leader of southern resistance to woman suffrage.

Overman served almost twenty-eight years on Capitol Hill. On 12 December 1930, he died in his Washington apartment at the Shoreham Hotel after suffering a stomach hemorrhage. According to his request, the funeral service was conducted in the chamber of the U.S. Senate. Overman was buried in Chestnut Hill Cemetery, Salisbury. For additional information see The Dictionary of North Carolina Biography .

From the guide to the Lee S. Overman Papers, ., 1918-1931, (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Library. Southern Historical Collection.)

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Subjects:

  • Military pensions--World War, 1914-1918--Law and legislation
  • Legislators--Correspondence
  • Emigration and immigration law--History--20th century
  • Prohibition

Occupations:

not available for this record

Places:

  • North Carolina (as recorded)
  • Muscle Shoals (Ala.) (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)