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Frank Samford III

Died: December 10, 2019

The summer of 1962, before we arrived in New Haven, Kathy and I spent seven weeks together in Cannes, France. Kathy was there on a “field trip” from East Meadow High School on Long Island, and I was there simply to have fun. Kathy arrived in Cannes before I did and she met this young high school graduate on the beach in front of the Carlton Hotel – that was Sam who was similarly spending the summer as we were, at the College International de Cannes.

When we arrived in New Haven, Sam lived in the last entry in Bingham closest to Vanderbilt Hall, as did I, and he was assigned to a room on the second floor immediately below my own.

Sam was a great intellect with a remarkable recall of all things historical, political and artistic. In his obituary, one noted that he is most remembered for his honesty, his kindness, and his extreme generosity as well as his love of family, children and dogs. He had a delightful sense of humor and embraced both a charming disregard for formality and a deep appreciation for humanity. Sam’s legal education spanned both the University of Alabama and Harvard. He taught at Emory Law School and opened and operated several different businesses including a store with an emphasis on American posters and ephemera and, in his last years, he owned and managed a robust portfolio of single-family homes now run by Katie Samford.

Sam was the patriarch of a large and loving family. He is survived by Sharon, his siblings, Laura Samford Armitage, John Samford, Mae Samford Robertson; his children, Ginny Samford Hornbeck, Paul Samford, Victor Samford and Katherine Samford, seven grandchildren, and a huge extended family. That huge extended family included adopted and foster children.

We developed a fast friendship that existed from the day we arrived in New Haven to the date of his death. If there was one thing that marked those years, it was spontaneity. A discussion with his father produced box seats to the first game of the World Series in 1963. Off we went. Weekday evenings in 1964-65 often found a bunch of us watching the Les Crane show on late night TV. Whatever the subject might have been, Sam always knew something about the material discussed and always added his own take on whatever the host and guests had to say.

Just before Sam died, he and Sharon (Sharon “arrived” at Yale at the end of our junior year and Sam and Sharon were married just after we graduated from Yale) flew to New York to see Ted Shen’s play Broadbend, Arkansas. Sharon was ill that afternoon and Kathy had a separate dinner engagement, and thus Sam and I had the opportunity to walk from Times Square to the Yale Club for dinner and then back to Times Square after dinner. During that extended forty-minute period, along with our dinner interval, we were able to catch up on all issues of importance and revel in the memories of our various interactions over the years, our Florida (Disney World) vacation with our children and our intermittent visits and professional engagements over the decades.

I knew from that walk that while Sam looked much younger than his (our) years and appeared very vigorous, he suffered from an assortment of medical problems and told me that tomorrow (their return flight to Atlanta) would be his last trip by plane. He was too uncomfortable in tight quarters, never complained, but had a realistic view of his physical capacity. On a rainy day in December, just after the New York trip, Sam was walking his dogs and slipped off a wet, slippery trail covered with fallen leaves and suffered the accident which claimed his life.

Read Sam’s entry in our 50th reunion book; there you will find a mature, thoughtful, engaged humanist. We may have been coconspirators during our four years in New Haven (when academic achievement ranked low in our collective ambition), but the ensuing 50 brought out a deeper, empathic individual who has been able to find family and friends, along with other professionals, who have embraced him and he, in turn, fed everyone all of the best springs of marriage, parenthood, community service and grandparenthood. I will miss him.

Andrew Berkman