One day in 1986 or 1987 I was sitting in my house in Menlo Park, California, reading an article in a San Francisco newspaper. I had not noticed the author’s name when I began the article, but halfway through, I said to myself: “This is a mainstream article in a mainstream paper, but this man is one of us.” I looked up at the by-line, and made a mental note to remember the author’s name. It was Samuel Francis.
I began to look elsewhere for the Francis by-line, and soon he and I were in correspondence. I flew to Washington, DC, on business—probably in 1988—and Sam agreed to meet me for dinner. It was the first of countless dinners, meetings, phone calls, conversations, and was the beginning of what became a cherished friendship. This first meting with Sam was before I had started what became American Renaissance, and over the months he strongly urged me to begin publishing. He promised to write for the magazine, and the knowledge that I could rely on at least one top-notch contributor was a source of much encouragement in what could have been an uncertain venture.
It was in those early years of our friendship that I learned that beneath Sam’s gruff manner there was warm-hearted and sensitive man—even a shy man. When I would telephone, he would greet me as if I were a bill collector. “Hey, how are you doing,” or, “Great to hear from you,” were not Sam’s style. But he was glad to hear from me, and he continued to write for AR and offer invaluable advice.
When, after several years of publishing, I decided to hold a conference for AR readers, Sam was the first person I thought of as a speaker. The 1994 conference—once again, an uncertain undertaking—was a great success thanks, in no small measure, to Sam’s willingness to speak. At every AR conference since then, his talk has always been one of the best attended and best received. His droll wit, his striking parallels, his arresting metaphors, his impromptu sallies during the question period—no one could both edify and entertain as Sam could, and he was always at the center of a convivial circle late into the night.
Unfortunately, much as Sam’s association benefited AR, the reverse was not always true. In fact, his participation at the 1994 conference was at least partly responsible for a sudden shift in his career. From the time I had first known him, Sam had been both a syndicated columnist and a staff columnist for The Washington Times. His position at the Times was one of high visibility and considerable influence, and just as many people subscribed to Chronicles mainly to read Sam’s column, a certain number of readers picked up the Times only because he wrote for it.
Sam first got in trouble at the Times for a column ridiculing the Baptist Church for an official, groveling apology over slavery. Though the column did not defend slavery, Sam pointed out that nowhere in the Bible is slavery considered a sin, and that the Baptists had no doctrinal reason to apologize for something in which no living Baptist had had a part.
The Times gave him a warning, but kept him on. Soon after, however, there was some publicity about his remarks at the 1994 conference. Though Sam himself never entirely understood why he was dismissed from the paper, the following words, spoken to the AR audience, appear to have been intolerable to the Times:
“The civilization that we as whites created in Europe and America could not have developed apart from the genetic endowments of the creating people, nor is there any reason to believe that the civilization can be successfully transmitted to a different people.”
Perhaps today, the Times would have overlooked this not-very-shocking statement, but ten years ago it was the equivalent of nitroglycerine, and Sam began a career as an independent journalist. His productivity was astonishing. In addition to his twice-weekly columns and monthly essays for Chronicles, he was editor of The Citizens’ Informer and book editor of The Occidental Quarterly. To this he added a regular stream of books and monographs, numerous speaking engagements, and service on several boards of directors, including that of AR’s parent organization, the New Century Foundation.
Of Sam’s brilliance and boldness as a thinker and writer there can be no doubt. The collection of his works on this page alone is ample testimony to that. He was undoubtedly the premier thinker and philosopher of white racial consciousness of our time. He was a man who could have built an impressive career as a public intellectual if, like so many, he had been willing to trim his sails and steer between the buoys. This, of course, was not Sam’s way, and by writing forcefully about what he knew to be true, moral, and vitally important, he sacrificed prominence and acclaim for the greater reward of doing what he saw to be his duty.
But as with so many men of great talent, Sam’s brilliance was just as striking in areas for which he was not well known. For example, he read deeply in literature, both serious and popular. He had an encyclopedic knowledge of the author H.P. Lovecraft, on whom he wrote several essays. Because of his keen interest in literature, it was a pleasure to discuss my own reading with Sam. If I managed to find the time to read a novel by Joseph Conrad or even a poem by Alexander Pope, Sam always had insightful recollections about the author and the work itself. I was partway through Dickens’s Dombey and Son when Sam died, and in a tiny corner of the immense sadness I feel, is the pang of knowing I will never have the pleasure of his commentary on that great novel.
Unlike many people, whose Ph.D. is a labor undertaken for professional purposes and quickly left behind, Sam’s historical learning reflected a real joy in knowing the past. He seemed to retain all he had ever learned, and was an inexhaustible source of insight and information. When, in my desultory way, I might stumble across an obscure but piquant incident from a 19th century British colonial campaign, Sam would know everything about the campaign, why the colonial minister of the time had ordered it, and what objections had been raised by the foreign minister. When I first became acquainted with the Greek historian and geographer Strabo, Sam, of course, knew all about him and why he was important.
What a terrible waste that this immense fund of learning and insight should suddenly be struck down! There was no man who accomplished more for our cause, nor was there one with whom a more agreeable and edifying evening could be spent.
And so it is for both professional and personal reasons that I mourn the passing of a great mind and a good friend. Sam died only yesterday, and it has not yet entirely sunken in to me that this brilliant man is no longer with us. Those of us who shared his vision will carry on, as best we can, without him.
Feb. 16, 2005