Sam Ervin's professed ambition was always just to be a country lawyer with an occasional term as a judge in his native North Carolina. Yet in 1954 he permitted himself to be appointed to the U.S. Senate, where he served for the next twenty years. Ervin's Senate career typified that of a southern Democrat: he was a states'-rights conservative (especially on civil rights), pro-defense, and a strict constructionist of the Constitution. It was his knowledge of constitutional law and reputation for integrity that vaulted this folksy figure to national prominence and fame as the chair of the Senate's committee investigating the Watergate affair. Ervin had the bipartisan support necessary to conduct the hearing, and his avuncular yet firm control of proceedings laid the groundwork for President Nixon's subsequent resignation.