Merrill is a descendant of Hugh Merrill, the former Lieutenant Governor of Alabama and Speaker of the Alabama House, Hugh Merrill Jr, who also served in the Alabama House, and Pelham Jones Merrill, who served in the Alabama House and fought in World War II.
Merrill is the son of Horace and Mary Merrill. He was raised in Heflin, Cleburne County where his father was a circuit clerk and a probate judge. His political ambitions were partly inspired by a meeting with then-Secretary of State candidate Don Siegelman in 1978.
Merrill graduated from Cleburne County High School and attended the University of Alabama, serving one term as president of the Student Government Association in 1986-1987. While in college, Merrill interned for U.S. Representative Bill Nichols and for U.S. Senator Howell Heflin.
After graduating, Merrill served as a spokesperson for the Tuscaloosa County School District and also coordinated after-school programs for the system. He entered the 2002 Democratic primary for District 62 in the Alabama House of Representatives, but was defeated. He sat out the 2006 election, but was successful in the 2010 general election as a Republican candidate. He resigned from the school board and accepted a job as business development officer for Tuscaloosa's First Federal Bank. While in the legislature, Merrill was one of the cosponsors of the 2011 Beason-Hammon Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act (HB56) which was aimed at discouraging illegal immigation. Most of the provisions of that law were nullified by federal court settlements.
Merrill won a runoff with Reese McKinney in the 2014 Republican primary to fill the Alabama Secretary of State seat held by appointee Jim Bennett. He defeated Democrat Lula Albert-Kaigler in the 2014 general election.
Running as the incumbent, Merrill easily defeated challenger Michael Johnson in the 2018 Republican primary and pulled out a slightly narrower victory against Democrat Heather Milam in the 2018 general election.
|Alabama House of Representatives
|Alabama Secretary of State