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John Harold Merrill is the son of Horace and Mary Merrill of Heflin, Alabama (Cleburne County). He was born on November 12, 1963 in Wedowee, Alabama (Randolph County). He grew up in Heflin and is an Eagle Scout from Heflin Troop 206. He is a graduate of Cleburne County High School and The University of Alabama where he served as President of the Student Government Association in 1986-1987.
While attending The University, John served as a Congressional Intern for Congressman Bill Nichols (1983) and Senator Howell Heflin (1984). After his term as SGA President, John became the governmental affairs intern at The Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama in 1987-88. John then served as a National Advertising Account Executive and Manager for Randall Publishing Company (now Randall-Reilly). In 1990, he became the Assistant Director for the Tuscaloosa County Industrial Development Authority where he assisted in the recruitment of Mercedes-Benz. He then served as the Director of Business Development for The Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama in 1993-94. From 1994 until 2010, John was the Director of Community Relations and Community Education for the Tuscaloosa County Board of Education. In this capacity, he served as the spokesperson for the Tuscaloosa County School System and coordinated twenty after school programs. In 2011, he became a Business Development Officer for First Federal Bank in Tuscaloosa.
On November 2, 2010, John was elected to represent the people of District 62 in the State House of Representatives with 87% of the vote which was the highest percentage vote of any contested House candidate that year. He served as the Secretary/Treasurer of the House Republican Caucus and was a member of the powerful Rules Committee, Economic Development and Tourism, and Constitution, Campaigns, and Elections Committees. He was also a member of the House Fire Caucus and the Alabama Iron and Steel Caucus, the Southern Legislative Conference and the National Conference of State Legislatures.
In 2011, he was presented the "2011 Axe Award" by the Alabama Association of Volunteer Fire Departments and became the only freshman ever to be recognized as their Legislator of the Year. John was a member of the inaugural class of NCSL Early Learning Fellows in 2011 (1 of 30 Legislators selected nationwide - only one from Alabama). In 2012, he was named the Alabama House Legislator of the Year by the Children’s Trust Fund, he was recognized by the Alabama Republican Party as a Rising Republican Star and he was presented with the 2012 Tuscaloosa All-Star Award for Excellence in Caring for Veterans. In 2013, he was selected as the Soil and Water Conservation District Area III Outstanding Elected Official for 2013, 2013 Outstanding Legislator by the Alabama Association of Rescue Squads, and he was named as the Child Advocate of the Year for 2013 at the Early Intervention and Preschool Conference. In 2014, John was awarded the Silver Beaver by the Black Warrior Council of the Boy Scouts of America for outstanding volunteer service in Scouting. John was identified by the Sunlight Foundation as the Most Effective Republican Member of the Alabama House of Representatives from 2011-14 and he was named Legislator of the Year by the Tuscaloosa County Young Republicans in 2014.
John Merrill is very active in his community and has served in many leadership capacities. John is a Deacon at Calvary Baptist Church, where he has served as a Sunday School teacher and a member of the Sanctuary Choir. He was on Emmaus Walk # 68 and has assisted with several Emmaus Walks and Chrysalis Flights. He is or has been a member of numerous community organizations such as, Alabama Sports Hall of Fame Selection Committee, Children First Board of Directors, Friends of the Alabama Archives Board of Directors, Alabama YMCA Youth in Government Board of Directors, State Republican Executive Committee, National Rifle Association, Leadership Tuscaloosa, The Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama, United Way of West Alabama, YMCA, Boys and Girls Club, Big Brothers, Big Sisters, Boy Scouts of America, March of Dimes, Hillcrest High School Athletic Boosters Club, West Alabama Literacy Council, Alabama Constables Association & others. He has also served as the President of many groups, which include the American Red Cross, Leadership Tuscaloosa Alumni Association, United Cerebral Palsy of West Alabama, Youth for Christ, Druid Civitan Club, the Tuscaloosa City School’s Vocational Advisory Council, past Chairman of the Tuscaloosa County Republican Executive Committee.
John is past president of both the Alabama School Communicator’s Association and the Alabama Community Education Association. In 2005, John was recognized as the Alabama School Communicator of the Year for the State of Alabama. Nationally, he has served as the Southeastern Regional Vice President for the National School Public Relations Association (2009-10). In 2010, Governor Bob Riley appointed John to serve as Chairman of the Board for the Department of Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention - The Children’s Trust Fund.
John has been married to the former Cindy Benford of Phil Campbell for twenty-nine years. She is the principal at Westwood Elementary School in Coker. The couple has two children, Brooks (24), a graduate of The University of Alabama and graduate student at The University of South Florida, and Allie Grace (21), a senior at The University.
John won the election to become Alabama's 53rd Secretary of State on November 4, 2014.