John Merrill

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John Harold Merrill (born November 12, 1963 in Wedowee, Randolph County) was the 53rd Alabama Secretary of State, serving two terms from January 2015 to January 2023.

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. His cousin, Hugh D. Merrill, was a long-time president of Jacksonville State University's board of trustees.

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.

Merrill briefly campaigned as a candidate to challenge incumbent Doug Jones for the U.S. Senate in the 2020 Republican Primary, but dropped out after former Senator Jeff Sessions entered the race. He was expected to run for the Senate seat left by the retirement of Richard Shelby in the 2022 election, but stated that he would not run after a long-running extramarital sexual relationship was made public in April 2021.

In September 2021 Merrill invited MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, an advocate of numerous false allegations about fraud in the 2020 presidential election, to meet with his staff and review Alabama's election procedures. The meeting did not dissuade Lindell from making false claims about the state's election security.

Secretaries of State are among the elected officials limited to two consecutive terms of office by the 1901 Alabama Constitution. Former Pike County probate judge and state representative Wes Allen was elected to the office in 2022.

Preceded by:
Gerald Allen
Alabama House of Representatives
District 62

Succeeded by:
Rich Wingo
Preceded by:
Jim Bennett
Alabama Secretary of State
Succeeded by:
Wes Allen


  • Walker, Amanda (November 9, 2014) "Doing what he has always wanted to do... Secretary of State - elect, John Merrill." The Birmingham News
  • Cason, Mike (July 25, 2019) "Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill running for U.S. Senate." The Birmingham News
  • Sheets, Connor & Kyle Whitmire (April 7, 2021) "Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill admits affair, won’t run for U.S. Senate: ‘There’s no excuse’." The Birmingham News
  • Whitmire, Kyle (September 24, 2021) "Whitmire: Alabama Secretary of State starts a MyPillow fight he can’t win." The Birmingham News