John Merrick, a trailblazing businessman

John Merrick
Wed, 1859-09-07

*John Merrick was born on this date in 1859. He was an African American 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 labor. 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.

It during this time that Merrick learned barbering got married and became the father of a baby girl named Geneva. Later in his life 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 and Provident 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. The growth of its premium income were 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, the amount of insurance which has been written with the Company was twenty-six and a half millions! The list of employees of the company in January, 1920, was over 1200, with more than 700 agents and 250 medical examiners.

By 1948, it was the largest African American owned business in the country. Another company he created was the Merrick-Moore-Spaulding Real Estate Company, incorporated December 8, 1910. This Company is also still operating. John Merrick was spiritual and was 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 take the place of heart-service.

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

North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company

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Person / name: 

Merrick, John