Lyda Moore Merrick was by birth and by marriage a member of two of North Carolina’s mist prominent families. John Merrick, her father-in-law, and Dr. A.M. Moore, her father, was among the founders of the North Carolina Mutual and Provident Association in 1898, later to become the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company, the largest black-owned business in the United States, and one of the oldest.
Dr. Aaron McDuffie Moore, Lyda’s father, was born in the eastern part of North Carolina. He became the first black physician in Durham in 1888. He married Sarah McCotta Dancy, the daughter of an important political leader in eastern North Carolina. Dr. Moore founded Lincoln Hospital in 1901 and the Colored Library in 1913, and led the movement for the improvement of rural schools for blacks in North Carolina. “Cottie Moore was well known and well loved in Durham, a friendly person, and full of fun.”?
Dr. and Mrs. Moore sent their two daughters, Lyda and Mattie Louise, to Scotia Seminary in Concord, North Carolina, and then to Fisk University, from which they graduated magna cum laude in 1911. To complete their education, Dr. Moore encouraged them to continue at Columbia University, after which they returned home to Durham.
Lyda began teaching private piano students, devoted herself to making portraits and other drawings, and was courted by Ed Merrick, a son of the Mutual founder. Their marriage in 1916 marked an even close alliance between two of the most powerful black families in the state; the local newspaper called the wedding “a social event of state-wide importance”? attended by W.E.B. Du Bois; Charlotte Hawkins Brown, director of Palmer Memorial Institute; the president of Wilberforce University; and the mayor of Durham and his wife.
Mr, and Mrs. Merrick easily settled into the Mutual family. In addition to raising their two daughters, Lyda Merrick sang with the Mutual’s glee club and quartet, became active in the Federation of Negro Women’s Club, book clubs, and church circles, and served on the board of the Durham Colored Library.
In 1952 Lyda Merrick realized, in her work for the blind, the single greatest challenge of her life, founding The Negro Braille Magazine (Now The Merrick/Washington Magazine for the Blind), the only national publication directed towards the needs of black people who are sightless. She served as editor for the next eighteen years. “My father passed a torch to me which I have never let go out. We are blessed to serve” stated Mrs. Merrick in her ninety-second year.
If the North Carolina Mutual is the successful child of Mr. Merrick and Dr. Moore, The Merrick/Washington Magazine for the Blind is the child of Lyda Moore Merrick. John Carter Washington, born blind and deaf, provided Lyda Moore Merrick inspiration. He began life as a foundling, under the care of nurses at Lincoln Hospital. Dr. Moore brought the baby to Lyda’s home until a foster family could be found for him. Their close friendship lasted for over sixty years. It was at John’s insistence that Lyda Merrick began to think about ways of helping their people who are blind, starting with the Library’s Corner for the Blind, and he influenced her decision to begin the Braille magazine.