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This article is from the Encyclopedia of North Carolina edited by William S. Powell. Copyright © 2006 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

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Royal Knights of King David

by William S. Powell, 2006

John Merrick. NC Historical Marker G-109. Image courtesy of NC Office of Archives & History. The Royal Knights of King David was an organization formed in 1883 by John Merrick, modeled after a similar group in Georgia. Merrick, a black Durham businessman who owned a chain of five barbershops, incorporated the North Carolina body in his own name, with W. G. Pearson as president. Organized as a fraternal and social group with religious overtones, the Royal Knights also provided insurance for members; indeed, providing insurance was one of the primary objectives Merrick envisioned for the organization.

A "Lady Knights Department" was formed in order "to unite fraternally all acceptable colored women of any reputable profession, business or organization" to assist one another. Membership included provisions for life insurance coverage and burial expenses. The constitution of the Durham unit permitted as many as six men to join the Lady Knights, but they were not allowed to vote or hold office, and their primary purpose was to act as pallbearers at the funerals of members.

In 1898 Merrick built upon the insurance activities of the Royal Knights to organize the business that became the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company.


R. McCants Andrews, John Merrick: A Biographical Sketch (1920).

Walter B. Weare, Black Business in the New South (1973).

Additional Resources:

John Merrick's House, UNC Libraries:

North Carolina Mutual:

"John Merrick 1859-1919." N.C. Highway Historical Marker G-109, N.C. Office of Archives & History.

Image Credit:

"John Merrick 1859-1919." N.C. Highway Historical Marker G-109, N.C. Office of Archives & History. (accessed August 20, 2012).

Origin - location: 





That is a really interesting question! I did some research and it seems that the order dissolved once it was incorporated into the North Carolina Mutual Life in Durham, NC. The business is still in operation today and may be able to provide more information. 


Kelly Eubank

Government and Heritage Library


I have a copy of a deed dated in the early 1900's from the Registrar of Deeds Lincolnton, NC. It says that my Grandparents Rev. Sully and Josephine Herndon sold a parcel of land to the Royal Knights of King David Inc. Lincolnton, NC. Is there any record of this in the collection that is maintained or recorded? Was this something that members did? I can provided a company of this Deed. Please let me know.



Thanks for contacting us. I'm unclear with your question. What are you looking for a record of?

Erin Bradford, Government and Heritage Library


I read that the RKOKD fraternal society was started in Durham, NC but on this Deed recorded in Lincoln County, NC it states the RKOKD inc. Lincolnton, NC. Can you have articles of incorporation at two different locations? There's also some types of bonds payable recorded that maybe associated with the RKOKD. I contacted the State of NC for articles of incorporation for the RKOKD but no information was found.


Was the Royal Knights of King David a Masonic organization? Please respond one way or the other. I am completing a research project, and am in need of an a factual accurate affirmative, or negative Thx!


Dear Andi,

Thank you for visiting NCpedia and especially for taking time to share this question.

The Knights of King David was a fraternal insurance society.  I don’t find anything that indicates they were associated with the Freemasons or the Black Freemasons.  It is possible that members were individually and personally affiliated with Masonic groups, however.

If you wanted to confirm this, you may want to contact North Carolina’s masonic organizations and inquire with them about their history.  Here is the link to the website for the Prince Hall Grand Lodge for North Carolina:  And here is the link to the website for the Freemasons of North Carolina:

I hope this helps!  Please let me know if you have additional questions.

Best wishes,

Kelly Agan, Government & Heritage Library

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