Sam J. Ervin, IV, was born in Morganton, North Carolina, on November 18, 1955. He attended the public schools in Burke County, North Carolina, graduating from Freedom High School in 1974. In 1978, Justice Ervin was awarded an A.B., magna cum laude, from Davidson College. After graduating from Davidson, he attended Harvard Law School, from which he received a J.D., cum laude, in 1981.
From 1981 until 1999, Justice Ervin practiced law with the Morganton, North Carolina firm of Byrd, Byrd, Ervin, Whisnant, McMahon, P.A., and its predecessors. While in private practice, Justice Ervin handled a wide variety of civil, criminal, and administrative matters, including many appeals to the North Carolina Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court of North Carolina.
In 1999, Justice Ervin was nominated for a seat on the North Carolina Utilities Commission by Governor James B. Hunt, Jr. He was nominated for a second term on the Utilities Commission by Governor Michael F. Easley in 2007.
In addition, Justice Ervin was extensively involved in the activities of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC), having served as Chairman of that organization's Subcommittee on Nuclear Issues and Waste Disposal from 2002 until 2005; as Chairman of that organization's Committee on Electricity from 2004 until 2007; and as a member of its Task Force on Climate Policy from 2007 through 2008.
Justice Ervin was elected to the North Carolina Court of Appeals at the November 4, 2008, general election, and served on that body until he took office as a Justice of the Supreme Court of North Carolina on January 1, 2015, after being elected to that position at the November 4, 2014, general election.
Justice Ervin has also been, at various times, involved in a wide variety of church-related, bar-related, and charitable activities. He is married to Mary Temple Ervin and has two children and two step-children.