Sunday, February 28, 2021

Blackstone Waterhouse (ca. 1844--?)

Portrait courtesy of the Arkansas state archives.

   An early African American legislator from Arkansas, Blackstone Waterhouse represented Jefferson County in the Arkansas House of Representatives for one term, 1883-1885. Information regarding Waterhouse remains at a minimum, and his exact dates of birth and death remain uncertain. Three census records give conflicting accounts as to Waterhouse's state of birth and family, and are recorded below:
  • A 1910 census listing (under the misspelled name Blackstom Waterhouse), records him as a 65-year-old resident of Vaugine in Jefferson County, with his birthplace being given as Arkansas. This same record denotes his wife Sallie as sixty-three-years-old, and his parents being born in North and South Carolina, respectively. 
  • Another census record from 1900 again records him as a resident of Vaugine and lists his birth year as March 1844. This record denotes his state of birth as Alabama, with his parents being born in Virginia.
  • A "B. Waterhouse", born ca. 1840 is recorded in the 1880 U.S. Census as a resident of Pine Bluff, Arkansas. This man is noted as a married black grocer, with a wife, Sallie, and a fourteen-year-old son, William. 
  Elected as one of three Jefferson County representatives in September 1882, Waterhouse took his seat in January 1883 and was named to the committees on Federal Relations and Retrenchment. During this session, Waterhouse introduced one piece of legislation, House Bill No. 278, "a bill to be entitled an act to secure railroad laborers the payment of their wages."

From the January 7, 1883, Daily Arkansas Gazette.

  In the decades following his service in the legislature Blackstone Waterhouse was active in Baptist church work, and in November 1898 served as a delegate to the Arkansas Baptist state convention held in Pine Bluff. He was named to the committee on Correspondence, and in July 1902 attended the convention of the United Brothers of Friendship and Sisters of the Mysterious Ten, a black benevolent association founded in Kentucky in 1861. A longstanding member of that organization, Waterhouse was named as a Grand Counsellor at this meeting and at a conclave held in 1901 was named to the committee on Rules.
  Information on Waterhouse after 1904 remains scant. In May of that year, he took part in a Republican committee meeting in Vaugine, which would select delegates to the Republican state convention that September. Newspaper reports of the time denote his continued affiliation with the United Brothers of Friendship. and in 1910 was named to the grand lodge's finance committee. In 1914 he was named an alternate delegate from Jefferson County to the Republican state convention.

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 A burial location for Blackstone Waterhouse remains unknown at this time, as well as his exact dates of birth and death. The period of his life following his legislative service also remains a mystery. If you are a reader or possible descendant and have information that you'd like to contribute, please send along a message via the Facebook link shown at the upper right of this page!

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Monday Floyd (ca. 1803--?)

                                                                           From the Georgia Official Register.

   A two-term member of the Georgia House of Representatives, Monday Floyd was a free black carpenter residing in Morgan County at the time of his election. Like Sancho Sanders (profiled back on February 19), Floyd's birth and death dates have been lost to history, and, like Sanders, he provided unsettling testimony as to Ku Klux Klan atrocities committed in his district during the early years of Reconstruction.
   Born in Georgia, Monday Floyd is recorded as a sixty-year-old in the 1870 U.S. Census, along with his wife, Dinah, aged fifty-eight. A Freedman's Bank record, dated May 1870, notes that Floyd had six children, three of whom were deceased. This document also records Floyd's parent's names, Burrill Neal and Sukey. An additional birthdate is given by Floyd himself during his 1872 congressional testimony, noting that he was born December 25, 1803, in Greene County, Georgia, and was raised in the neighboring county of Putnam. During this testimony, Floyd recounts that he was a slave prior to emancipation and after the war relocated to Morgan County, where he worked as a house carpenter.
  In 1868 Monday Floyd was among 33 black men elected to the Georgia House of Representatives and Senate. These 33 men were blocked from taking their seats in September of that year but were not to be denied in their quest for political representation. Through the efforts of legislator-elect Henry McNeal Turner and others, the case headed to the state supreme court, which ruled in the case of White v. Clements (1869) that blacks did have the constitutional right to hold office. By early 1870 the commander of the Third Military District, Gen. Alfred Howe Terry, had conducted a purge of ex-Confederates serving in the legislature and instated the previous election's Republican candidates, and the expelled black legislators.
  Now seated as a representative from Morgan County, Floyd, and his fellow legislators ratified the 15th amendment to the constitution in February 1870. Little is known of his time in the legislature until December 1870, when he was accosted by members of the Ku Klux Klan. In a detailed U.S. Senate document concerning the attack, Floyd was attacked at his home by two Klansmen, who, after leaving the premises, returned a few hours later and shot into the home. Subsequent testimony by Floyd's acquaintance, Andrew Rockafellow, detailed that Floyd was wounded in the attack, being struck at least twice, "in the side or hip, and another in the leg." Rockafellow was later shown these wounds by Floyd after the latter's escape to Atlanta. The Klansmen returned to Floyd's home several days later, but Floyd, having been tipped off to their presence, made good his escape by hiding in the woods, where he hid until making his way to AtlantaNow fearful of returning to Morgan County, Floyd removed permanently to Atlanta and thereafter kept his visits to Morgan County to a minimum.
  Despite the attempts by the Klan to intimidate him, Floyd remained resolute and was elected to a second term in the state legislature in late 1870. During this term, he would provide testimony on Klan violence and intimidation that was later entered into the Congressional record in 1872. In his remarks, dated November 1871, Floyd makes no mention of the previous Klan attack on his life, but details threatening letters he had received. One, titled "Helltown, Georgia, At Night", requested that he resign his seat in the legislature immediately, and failure to comply would result in the letter's authors being "provoked to put a dire threat into execution." The letter in its entirety can be read at the following link.
  Monday Floyd's life after 1872 remains a mystery. Another Monday Floyd, born 1860 and recorded in 1880 U.S. Census, possibly is a son or grandson of the Monday Floyd profiled here. No records concerning Floyd could be found after 1872, but his memory lives on at the Georgia state capitol. In 1976 a bronze sculpture commemorating the first 33 black legislators was commissioned and two years later was unveiled on the grounds of the state capitol in Atlanta.

You Can Help!

  A burial location for Monday Floyd remains unknown at this time, as well as his exact dates of birth and death. The period of his life following his legislative service also remains a mystery. If you are a reader or possible descendant and have information that you'd like to contribute, please send along a message via the Facebook link shown at the upper right of this page!

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Sancho Sanders (?--?)

From the composite of radical members of the South Carolina legislature, 1868.

  Sancho Sanders was, like Syfax Milton, a freedman who entered politics in the Reconstruction-era South. Elected to represent Chester County in the South Carolina Constitutional Convention of 1868, Sanders also served in the capacity of state representative in the session of 1868-69. Like the man who preceded him here, details on Sanders's life remain scant, with both his birth and death date being unavailable at this time. A Baptist minister in Chester County, Sanders provided compelling testimony to Congress on Ku Klux Klan activity in his state during his time as a state representative. 
  Born into slavery, Sanders's birth occurred in the early 1800s, as he is recorded as "about sixty years of age" at the time of his election to the state house of representatives. He is recorded by the Yorkville Enquirer as being owned by Rev. James Lowry of Chester County, and "in slavery times officiated as a carriage driver for his master." This same paper denotes Sanders's prosecution for an alleged act of hog stealing in the 1840s, with "a sound flogging being administered upon his back" sometime later.
   Following the Civil War, Sanders was ordained as pastor of the Pilgrim Baptist Church near Chester. In the election of 1867 Sanders was one of four black Union Republican candidates from Chester County, and that November three were elected. The fact that three black freedmen were to represent Chester County in the constitutional convention proceedings subsequently drew the ire of the Yorkville Enquirer, which reported:
"It is supposed the Union Republican candidates, Barney Burton, Pervis Alexander and Sancho Sanders, all black, are elected--two whining preachers (so called) and a conceited blacksmith, by the Providence of God and the policy of the Yankee nation, are entrusted, for a season, with the destinies of our District. This Reconstruction farce is so pitiable that we cannot believe that the sensible people of the North will permit it to be played out"
   The 1868 Constitutional Convention was of significant importance, as it was instrumental in South Carolina being readmitted as a state following the Civil War. One of 76 black men to take part in the convention proceedings, Sanders and his fellow delegates began their work in January 1868, and during the two-month convention developed the following tenets that would be adopted in March 1868:
  • A Declaration of Rights, noting "distinction on account of race or color, in any case whatsoever, shall be prohibited, and all classes of citizens shall enjoy equally all common, public, legal and political advantages."
  • Every male citizen age 21 and over had the right to vote, "regardless of their educational background or material wealth."
  • An act making divorce legal in South Carolina.
  • All children were required to attend a state-sponsored school for at least two years (between ages six and sixteen.)
  • Abolished debtors prison
  • No provisions against interracial marriage
  • Overturned the Black Codes that had been affirmed by the constitutional convention of 1865.
  Just days following the opening proceedings of the convention, Sanders's character was further disparaged by the Enquirer in its January 23, 1868 edition, which remarked:
"Like most negro preachers, he was a wolf in sheep's clothing, and did not hesitate, when opportunity presented, to prositute his calling to the prosecution of most unworthy ends...Since his emancipation he had continued to live on the fat of the land, by preaching to his misguided followers, the Word, mixed considerably with the torch and the sword. He was elected by so large a vote from the fact that the Baptists made a nomination of a ticket, at the head of which was Sancho, followed by the names of some of his brother Baptists. Now the blacks in that section are nearly all Baptist or Methodist."
From the Yorkville Enquirer, January 23, 1868.

  In the capacity of constitutional convention delegate, Sancho Sanders also served as a representative in the South Carolina legislature from 1868-69 and is recorded as such in the following legislative roster. In August 1869 tragedy struck when the Pilgrim Baptist Church was destroyed by fire. Newspaper reports in the Chester Reporter and Yorkville Enquirer noted it most likely was a Ku Klux Klan motivated fire, and also detailed problems from within the church itself, arising from a tumult between parishioners loyal to Sancho Sanders and others following Lee Sanders, another minister. As both papers remarked in issues following the fire, Sancho Sanders had "wielded, up to a short time back, a wonderful influence, both politically and religiously, over his brethren of color, in fact leading them wheresoever it pleased him."
   In the days following the fire both the Enquirer and Chester Reporter further detailed that during his time in politics Sancho Sanders:
"Was like a fish out of water in the Convention, and ditto in the legislature. Rumors of his stupidity in the House, of employing his time as a legislator in learning to write, and of many other things unbecoming a man of his wisdom they had entertained the very highest opinion, come to the ears of his constitutents, and his political influence began to diminish. The colored people mix up politics and religion to such an extent that what affects one of their number as a politician necessarily affects him as a religious man, and vice versa. Hence when Sancho began to lose prestige as a politician, he also began to lose prestige as a preacher."
   As per the above papers (as well as the 2002 work The Reconstruction Ku Klux Klan in York County, South Carolina, 1865-1877), Sancho Sanders was ousted from his pastorate at Pilgrim Baptist Church and replaced by Lee Sanders. The church, now divided between rival congregations, issued threats against one another, followed by alleged physical violence. Given the racial animus of the time and the Enquirer's previous besmirching of Sanders's character, one is left to venture their own opinion as to whether the fire was due to Klan violence, or was the result of inner church turmoil.
  During his legislative term, Sancho Sanders provided compelling testimony on Klan atrocities in his district, giving a statement before Alexander Stuart Wallace (1817-1893), then a candidate for U.S Representative from South Carolina. This testimony was later entered into Congressional correspondence following Wallace's successful contesting of his congressional race, with Sanders relating the tumultuous period during the election of 1868. Sanders stated that while working the Republican polling station in his district Democratic voters blocked the door and threatened to shoot him "because he influenced people to vote the republican ticket." He went on to describe the Ku Klux Klan riding through his district issuing threats to anyone who dared vote for Republican candidates, and that "about 200" registered Republican voters had failed to come out to vote due to fears of violence. Sanders's full testimony can be read at the following link

From the Columbia Daily Phoenix, November 10, 1870.

   In November 1870 Sancho Sanders was elected to a second term in the house of representatives, a notice of his election appearing in the Columbia Daily Phoenix. Taking his seat at the start of the 1871-72 session, Sanders served alongside Syfax Milton and sat with him on the committee on the State House and Grounds. In January 1872 Sanders introduced a house bill aimed directly at the Klan, which aimed to keep any Klan member from running or holding political office in the state. This bill received mention in the Charleston Daily Courier of January 31, 1872, which, stereotyping black dialect, listed the tenets of Sanders's bill--purposely misspelling person/persons as "puson", as well as spelling "connected", "court", and "unconstitutional" with k's instead of c's. 

From Charleston Daily Courier, January 31, 1872 .

  Little else is known of Sanders's life following 1872. At some point, prior to that year, he had returned to his pastorate at a new Pilgrim Baptist Church, and that September was involved in a fracas between members of his congregation, the police, and a new churchgoer who "had always voted the Democratic ticket." Sanders's death date remains unknown, as do census records recording him after 1872. However, the 1870 U.S. Census records him as a 65-year-old resident and state representative in Chester County. This census also records the name of his wife Milia (aged fifty-four) and three children, Henry (aged fifteen), Joseph (aged fifteen), and Sisily (aged twenty).

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  While a number of details have been found regarding Sancho Sanders's political service, the latter portion of his life remains a mystery. If you are a reader or possible descendant and have information you'd like to contribute, please leave a message below or at the Facebook link on the upper right side of this page!

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Syfax Milton (?--1910)

From the Watchman and Southron, January 29, 1910.

  A Reconstruction-era black legislator from South Carolina, Syfax Milton served three terms in the South Carolina House of Representatives. One of a number of freedmen elected to legislative seats in the South in the years following the Civil War, Milton's life and career are shrouded in obscurity, and aside from the obituary shown above, little else is known of him. A portrait of Milton has also proven elusive, as has his date of birth. Additionally, his first name has a variation in spelling, being given as Syphax.
 In 1870 Milton was elected as one of two state representatives from Clarendon County; his fellow legislator, Jared Warley, also being African-American. During the 1870-72 session, Milton sat on the committee on the State House and Grounds and continued political service in 1874 when he represented Clarendon at the Union Republican State Convention. Milton would also serve a term as Clarendon County Commissioner in 1874, but no source details the length of that term.
  Syfax Milton won a second term in the house in late 1874, and during the 1874-76 session was named to the committees on Mines, Mining and Manufactures, and Public Lands. In 1876 he was elected to a third term and was named to one new committee, Contingent Account and Expenses. This term saw Milton propose one piece of legislation, "a bill to allow the County Commissioners of Clarendon and Sumter County to open a certain road in said Counties."
  Two years after leaving the legislature Syfax Milton again represented Clarendon County at the Union Republican State Convention, and was again a delegate in 1882. In the late 1880s he is recorded as chairman of the Clarendon County Republican party, and at the county Republican convention of 1890 was made permanent president. He continued to be a influential figure in county politics through the remainder of that decade, and stepped down as county chairman in 1895 due to impaired health.

From the Manning Times, November 25, 1891.

  Little is known of the remainder of Milton's life, and just weeks before his death, the "old war horse" of the county Republican party gave an Emancipation Day address to a large crowd in Manning, South Carolina. This address was remarked by the Manning Times as "teeming with sound advice, and teaching a lesson of industry, thrift, and integrity ", and was followed by oratory from the Rev. James Adams. On January 23, 1910, Syfax Milton died at his home in the "Salem" area of Manning, with notices of his death being published in several South Carolina newspapers. While described as "one of the better class of politicians" by the Manning Times, this same paper gave a Milton a backhanded memorialization following his death, noting:
"The younger generation that has come upon the stage cannot realize the conditions that existed in this State during reconstruction and the republican regime. In those days Syfax Milton was a power in the land. Though not an educated man he was possessed of a goodly share of sound, common sense. He was indentified with the ring streaked and striped element that controlled in those days being a representative and senator from Clarendon County, but his influence was not always for the bad nor did he profit greatly by the graft that was obtained in those days of good stealing."

You Can Help!! 

 A burial location for Syfax Milton remains unknown at this time, as does information concerning his possibly being born into slavery, his parentage, or whether or not he married and had children. If you are a reader, historian or possible descendant and have information you'd like to contribute, please send along a message below, or via this site's Facebook page!

From the Manning Times, January 26, 1910.

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Vanzetti Morris Hamilton (1927-1991)

From the Battle Creek Inquirer, July 15, 1963.

  A pioneer black lawyer in Ypsilanti, Michigan, Vanzetti Hamilton was a graduate of Wayne State University Law School in 1957, and was active in Democratic political circles in Washtenaw County, being an alternate delegate to the Democratic National Convention from Michigan in 1968 and 1972. In the latter period of his life, Hamilton was named to the board of trustees of Washtenaw Community College, serving until his death. While details on Hamilton's career in the public forum remain largely obscure, a recorded interview he gave (in the possession of the Ypsilanti Public Library) has yielded many details on his career that would have otherwise remained unknown. The son of George and Sarah (Shuford) Hamilton, Vanzetti Morris Hamilton was born in Detroit, Michigan on August 19, 1927.
  Hamilton's unusual first name may have a connection to Italian immigrant Bartolomeo Vanzetti, who, along with partner Nicolo Sacco, was controversially tried and convicted of a robbery and double murder that occurred at the Slater and Morrill Shoe Company in Braintree, Massachusetts. The duo's subsequent trial became a cause célèbre amongst many notable figures of the time, who charged anti-immigrant and anti-Italian sentiment as the motivating factor behind their conviction in July 1921. The duo was later sentenced to die in the electric chair, the sentence being carried out in August 1927Bartolomeo Vanzetti's execution, which occurred August 23, was just four days after Vanzetti Hamilton's birth, which strengthens the possibility that he was named after him. Subsequent decades revealed their conviction to be largely circumstantial, and on the 50th anniversary of their execution Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis issued a proclamation detailing that the duo had not received a fair trial, noting "that any disgrace should forever be removed from their names."
  Following his family's settlement in Ypsilanti in the 1930s, Hamilton attended Ypsilanti High School, where he excelled in oratory. In addition to his membership in the Ypsi choristers and band, he was a member of the school's debate club, was class orator, and placed 2nd in the American Legion oration. Following his graduation in 1945 Hamilton enrolled at the Eastern Michigan University, graduating in 1949. He subsequently followed a teaching career in the Willow Run school district and earned a master's degree in speech education. 
  In August 1952 Vanzetti Hamilton married in Battle Creek, Michigan to Arbra Jean Fullerton (1928-2006), a graduate of Cleary College. The couple were wed for nearly forty years and had four children, Mark, Lawrence, John, and Laura.
  After leaving the teaching profession in 1954 Hamilton decided upon a career in law, enrolling at Wayne State University Law School. The editor of the Wayne Law Journal during his junior year, he earned his degree in 1957 and would establish his practice in Ypsilanti. First practicing law out of his home, Hamilton removed his practice to downtown Ypsilanti sometime later, locating his office above a theater. Early in his career, Hamilton took part in the investigation of housing irregularities in Willow Village, and as part of a delegation who had raised concerns, detailed that the Federal Housing Administration's regional office:
"Was not co-operating fully in the development of a low rent housing project for those who can't afford to buy Federal housing."
  By the mid-1960s Hamilton had achieved further distinction in Ypsilanti through his work with the local NAACP chapter and was a former president of the Ypsilanti Business and Professional League. In 1963 he served as president of the Ypsilanti Human Relations Commission, his full dates of service being unknown at this time. In February 1963 Hamilton was a featured speaker in the concluding ceremonies for Battle Creek, Michigan's Negro History Week, lecturing on "New Frontiers in Human Relations." In the same year as that lecture, Hamilton was defense counsel in the case of Quin McLoughlin, a professor of sociology at Eastern Michigan University who had been convicted following participation in a 24-hour sit-in at Ann Arbor City Hall. Though McLoughlin was convicted and fined, Hamilton subsequently "asked for 10 days grace in which to appeal." In addition to the above, Hamilton is recorded as having been influential in the desegregation of the Willow Run school system. 

From the Saline Reporter, May 23, 1962.

  Active in Democratic political circles in Ypsilanti beginning in the late 1950s, Hamilton made two unsuccessful runs for prosecuting attorney of Washtenaw County in 1962 and 1964. He later won a seat on the Michigan Democratic State Central Committee, being a representative from the 2nd district. In 1968 he was named as an alternate delegate from Michigan to the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, where Hubert Humphrey was nominated for the presidency. In 1972 he again served as a DNC delegate, with his candidate preference listed as "uncommitted." 

From the Saline Reporter, October 29, 1980.

   Hamilton's life after 1972 largely remains obscure. The senior partner in the Ypsilanti law firm of Hamilton and McDonald, he was active in the civic life of his community, being the treasurer of the Ypsilanti Area Salvation Army Advisory Board, and the Ypsilanti Area Chamber of Commerce. In 1980 he served as president of the Eastern Michigan University Alumni Association and held memberships in the Michigan and American Trial Lawyers Association, the Wolverine Bar Association, and the Commercial Law League of America.
  In 1980 Hamilton emerged as a candidate for the board of trustees for the Washtenaw Community College. He was elected in November of that year and served from 1981 until his death, which occurred in Ypsilanti on January 29, 1991. He was survived by his wife Arbra and four children, with a burial location for him being unknown at this time. Far from a forgotten figure in Ypsilanti, Vanzetti Hamilton was posthumously honored as the namesake of the Vanzetti Hamilton Bar Association in Washtenaw County, an African American bar organization founded after his death in 1991.

Friday, February 5, 2021

Eristus Sams (1913-1990)

Portrait from Ebony Magazine, November 1975.

  February is Black History Month and with that comes a month-long theme of curiously named African-American political figures. We start this month in Texas with Eristus Sams, a former instructor in physical education at Prairie View A & M University who was active in politics in Waller County. In 1961 Sams became the first black man in modern Texas history to launch a statewide bid for the U.S. Senate, and in the year following was a Democratic candidate for Waller County Judge. While he may have lost both those races, Sams achieved political victory in 1970 when he took office as mayor of Prairie View, Texas, holding that office until 1984.
  Born in St. Landry Parish, Louisiana on January 9, 1913, Eristus Sams was the son of John (1888-1951) and Viola (Bolt) Sams (1889-1967). Little information could be found on his early years, excepting note of his family's removal to Beaumont, Jefferson County, Texas. In the 1920s he worked on a dairy farm in Beaumont, a period that inspired a lifelong love of agriculture. In the 1930s Sams was a student at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, where he excelled on the football field. Sams and his Golden Tiger teammates were profiled in the Birmingham Herald shortly before their visit to Houston, where they took on Prairie View College, with the Herald noting:
"While the team is made up of players from all sections of the United States, there is only one Texas man in the lineup, Eristus Sams, halfback, from Beaumont. Sams, who has been playing great ball all season, is expected to stand out in the game on New Year's Day. He is rated as one of the best halfbacks in the Southern Conference. This flashy native son will see plenty of action when Tuskegee tackles Prairie View."
   Sams's time at Tuskegee also saw him as a member of the school's track team, and in May 1936 placed second with his team in the two-mile college relay and the one-mile relay, held during the 10th annual Tuskegee Carnival. All told, Sams played halfback for the Golden Tigers between 1934-38, and in 1937 received further honors when he was "placed on the All-American football team by several sportswriters." In 1938 Sams graduated with his degree in agriculture. During the Second World War he enlisted in the coast guard, and of the seventy enlistees was one of ten African-Americans to enlist in June 1942. These ten men were acknowledged by the Fort Work Star-Telegram as having been "the first of their race to be inducted as regular apprentice seaman. Heretofore recruiting openings for Negroes had been restricted to the mess attendant division." Sams's service in the guard saw him as an instructor in self-defense, as well as an instructor in boxing, being stationed at the Manhattan Beach Coast Guard Training Station. As a boxing instructor, Sams was an assistant to former world champion boxer Jack Dempsey (1895-1983), who was then a lieutenant in the Coast Guard Reserve.
  In the 1940s Eristus Sams married Annie Vivian Jackson (1916-2010), to who he was wed until his death. The couple had three children, Rosetta (1944-1996), Dalzenia, and Michael Eristus.

Eristus Sams referees a boxing match between pro boxers Lou Ambers and Marty Servo.

  Following his Coast Guard service, Eristus Sams returned to Texas, where he became a physical education instructor at Prairie View A&M College. During this time he began farming, which he later pursued full time. Specializing in corn farming, by the mid-1950s Sams's farm in Waller County comprised 300 acres of land, and in a 1955 Alabama Tribune article concerning his work, made note that he wasn't satisfied until "his corn yield averages 80 to 90 bushels per acre." The Tribune further remarked that:
"In addition to growing 250 acres of feed corn, Mr. Sams also is raising 50 acres of certified hybrid seed corn to help keep the farmers in the Gulf Coast area of Texas growing hybrid corn. He is the only colored farmer in Texas growing certified hybrid corn."
From the Waco Tribune-Herald, April 2, 1961.
   In 1961 Sams made his first move into politics, announcing his candidacy for the United States Senate. Filing his papers in February of that year, this special primary election had been occasioned by the resignation of Lyndon Johnson, who'd been elected vice president the previous November. In a Fort Worth Star-Telegram article highlighting his candidacy, Sams detailed his campaign platform, "get big business out of farming", remarking that big business interference in farming "constituted unfair competition with the little man." 
  As the first black man in modern Texas history to run for a U.S. Senate seat, Sams took to the campaign trail, touting his wanting to aid the small farmer. In this candidacy, Sams faced an uphill battle, as he was one of over seventy candidates vying for the nomination. On primary election day in April Sams placed seventh in the vote count, polling 4,490 votes. The winning candidate, John G. Tower, went on to face incumbent senator William Blakley that May and emerged victorious at the polls
  Undeterred by defeat, Sams announced his bid for Waller County judge in the year following his senatorial bid and was profiled in the Brookshire Times. Announcing his support for the "present administration in Washington", Sams detailed his anti-communist stance, as well as his favoring a "balanced budget and a pay as you go plan". One of four candidates vying for judge, Sams was defeated in the May primary by Ralph Walters, who polled 803 votes to Sams's 548.

From the Brookshire Times, April 26, 1962.

  Following his defeat, Sams returned to farming and reemerged on the political scene in 1969, when he announced his candidacy for mayor of Prairie View. He was elected that year and began his first term in 1970. In total, Sams served fourteen years as mayor, and during his tenure served at various times as secretary of the National Conference of Black Mayors and was president of that organization's  Texas chapter. Additionally, Sams led a thirteen-year fight to give students and Prairie A&M College the right to vote, and in 1979 saw his efforts acknowledged when the U.S. Supreme Court decided:
"That a residency questionnaire arbitrarily implemented by county officials discriminated against students at the predominately black institution."
  The latter period of Sams's mayoralty saw him named to the Texas Family Farm Advisory Council for 1980-81, and in 1982 survived an attempt to oust him from office, originating from politically motivated charges leveled by members of the city council that he had misused city funds. Upon an order from district judge Oliver Kitzman, Sams was restored as mayor and served until leaving office in 1984. 
 Following his last term, Eristus Sams continued residence in Prairie View until his death at age 77 on October 11, 1990, following a heart attack. He was survived by his wife and children and was interred at the Martha Godfrey Cemetery in Chambers County, Texas.

From the Greenwood South Carolina Index-Journal, October 15, 1990.