Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Outside the Box - July

Object: Campaign Sash & Yard Sign

Janet B. Scarborough Merritt was elected to represent Sumter County in the Georgia State House in 1964. The only woman in this body at the time of her election, and the first to represent Sumter County, Merritt called herself a “full-time” representative. She served four terms in that position: she was elected again in 1966, in 1968 (after reapportionment combined Sumter with Macon and Schley counties into the new 46th district), and in 1970. In 1972, after a second reapportionment, Merritt was defeated for re-election by her former colleague in the House, Oliver Oxford, in a run-off. Merritt ran against Oxford a second time in the 1974 election, but was again narrowly defeated in a run-off.

Merritt's papers document her campaigns, her time in the state legislature and her community activities including heavy involvement in the Daughters of the American Revolution (D.A.R.). Of particular note are materials documenting Merritt’s ongoing battle to change Georgia’s state flag. In 1969, Merritt sponsored a bill to change the Georgia flag adopted in 1955, shortly after the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling, back to the 1879 version, which did not include the Confederate battle flag.

Campaign Sash & Sign...
Merritt’s younger daughter, Jane Myers, still vividly remembers helping her mother on the campaign trail with a few essential, homemade tools:

“Mother made those blue banners for my friends and me to wear. She also made the yard signs to be given out to those who requested them. She assigned the "Merry Maids" areas in Americus [Georgia] to go door to door wearing the banners, giving out cards and asking people to vote for Janet Merritt for Georgia State House Representative.”

Meritt went on to tell her daughters recollections of politicking at the age of 5 or 6. “She would visit her grandmother Ella in Americus and they would go riding in a horse drawn carriage with her cousin Charles R. Crisp.” Unbeknownst to the youngster, her cousin represented Georgia’s Third Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. “At the time she thought it was just a ride in the country.”

July's “Outside the Box” object will be on display in the lobby gallery of the Russell Library, open 8:30 am – 4:30 pm, Monday through Friday, until August 1st. For further information on the Janet B. Scarborough Meritt Papers, please contact or visit

Post by Jan Levinson, Assistant Outreach Archivist, Russell Library

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