Remembering Sambo


I moved to Fayetteville in April 1966. While in the process of moving boxes in, my 6-year-old son fell off his tricycle onto the concrete driveway, causing a few gashes on his forehead.

I don’t remember who we called to find a doctor, but we were led to a small white clinic that sat beside the Fayetteville Methodist Church.

Forty-eight years later, my son still has a couple of thin scars from that event.

This was my first introduction to Dr. Ferrol Aubrey Sams, Jr. For the next 40 years I or my children were a patient of his.

My love of history came from my dad and I began to learn all I could about my new county. “Sambo” never failed to answer my questions, whether about history or an ailment.

Although I knew he would answer my historical questions truthfully, I also never knew what outrageous stories would come out of his mouth concerning any persons associated with the answer. Have you read any of his books? You need to read at least one.

He has seen my children and me through hepatitis, a fractured leg, a hysterectomy, double pneumonia, meeting us for seven straight days at the clinic, including Saturday and Sunday, to keep us out of an expensive hospital stay, a serious allergic reaction to a medication I didn’t know I was allergic to, and all manner of colds and flu.

Now to be up front, although he was a friend, that didn’t mean he wouldn’t stop you from doing something in the community he didn’t want you to do.

He put the kibosh on my helping a friend open up a daycare near him. He just didn’t want it there. Or if he wanted to save an old house about to be abolished, he would get on my back, so to speak, as county historian, to stop it from being torn down.

A number of old Fayette Countians were often given a fictitious name and vilified as one of the characters in his books to make a point he felt important.

Did I escape being called attention to? No, but I just chuckle about it. He may be gone, but he’s still a good friend of my children and me.

[Carolyn Cary is the official Fayette County historian and the editor of the county’s first compiled history, “The History of Fayette County,” published in 1977. She lives in Fayetteville.]