Sam Dickson, American Renaissance, April 2005
Heroism is the triumph of the soul over fear: fear of poverty, of suffering, of calumny, of sickness, of isolation and death. — Henri Frederic Amiel
“I have bad news,” said the voice on the telephone. When I heard Louis Andrew’s words and the tone of his voice, my heart broke. I already knew what they meant. Like other friends of Sam Francis, I had been following with desperate hope his struggle to recover from a massive heart operation. I had feared from the first that his chances were slim.
Bad news? No. Catastrophic news. The death of a friend of over two decades would be horrible news under any circumstances, but the death of this friend, a man who is virtually irreplaceable, a man who filled so many positions in the struggle to preserve our race and its culture can only be termed catastrophic. Never had the old proverb “Death keeps no calendar” been so bitterly true.
I first came to know Sam when he was working in the office of Senator East of North Carolina. It was not a case of love at first sight. At that time, in the early 1980s, I was already marked as a thought criminal, an American dissident, or what the Soviets would have called a “former person.” Sam, on the other hand, was a respectable figure, holding a doctorate from the University of North Carolina and an impressive work history with prominent conservative institutions, and was a top aide to a United States Senator, whom he served as legislative assistant for national security affairs. I understood the uneasiness and reserve I sensed behind his polite demeanor.
According to an old saying, courage is the wisdom of manhood while foolhardiness the folly of youth. I had been perhaps foolhardy to throw myself in early youth into the race issue and into many controversial actions and associations. Sam had not done that. In contrast to my youthful foolhardiness, Sam’s courage would be the wisdom of manhood and would be seen in the unfolding of time. As the years passed, Sam moved steadily toward our positions on the issues that matter. When we first met, it was natural that he be uneasy with a young lawyer with a radical reputation. Nevertheless, strained and formal though our introduction was, this was the beginning of over 20 years of association that would grow into a close friendship fostered by collaboration in the struggle that will determine whether our race and the civilization it built will have a future.
Sam had many fine qualities. He was famous for his wit. His learning and reading were of staggering breadth. He was erudite, but unlike pseudo-intellectuals he carried his erudition well and was happy to talk with people regardless of their social rank or credentials. He was interested in ideas and in actually communicating with other people, not in upstaging them or making them feel small.
But he also could be a hard friend. Many people, certainly those with modern notions of self-esteem, would have found it wounding to be on the receiving end of Sam’s critiques. His conversation could be harsh, sometimes even caustic. But there was never a personal agenda in what he said, and more often than not, he was right, even if it brought you up short. And Sam was a loyal and even a forgiving friend. Of all his great qualities the greatest — the ones that set him apart from thousands like him who have started out in the “respectable right” — were his loyalty and his courage.
Sam’s conservatism, unlike that of so many so-called conservatives, was not an artificial growth of some individualized libertarian philosophy. It was not inseminated by logical formulae, nor was it born in a philosophy book. Sam did not scorn logic or philosophy, and knew they are critical to hone, polish and perfect what is intuitively felt. Nevertheless, at its core, Sam’s conservatism — as any healthy conservatism must be — was rooted, real and not theoretical.
Sam’s other distinguishing feature, the feature that made all the difference, was his courage. Courage, like loyalty, is scarce in our society and age. Samuel Johnson once said, “We have more respect for a man who robs boldly on a highway than for a fellow who jumps out of a ditch and knocks you down behind your back. Courage is a quality so necessary for maintaining virtue that it is always respected, even when it is associated with vice.” Johnson’s observation that courage is necessary for maintaining virtue sheds light on the pathetic state of American conservatism and on the plight of American whites.
Sam’s courage, alas, was not characteristic of the conservative “leadership” of the last three generations. Had courage like Sam’s been the rule, our people’s situation would be very different. His courage began with the willingness to listen to radical viewpoints, to give a fair hearing to others with whom he initially disagreed. Sam did not pull down the shades and turn off his brain to avoid facing unpleasant truths. He was willing to face them head-on, and such intellectual courage is not common.
Sam was willing to follow where the facts led, and to make the hard decisions the facts required, and he was willing to pay the price in modern, “free” America for those who rap on sacred idols with the hammer of truth. And he paid the price. Sam lost his job as staff columnist and deputy editorial page editor of The Washington Times because he spoke at an American Renaissance conference. He was not fired because what he said was untrue, but because he dissented from egalitarian dogma, and was guilty of associating with other thought criminals.
Sam was not fired by liberals, Marxists, or fanatic Trotskyites. He was fired by people who tell you they are “conservatives” (but “responsible” ones) and who no doubt convince themselves they are doing something to save the country. These people are the conservative opposition that conserves nothing and opposes nothing. Like Sam, and like the rest of us, they have faced unpleasant truths. Unlike Sam, they crumpled at the test; they turned their faces away from the truth.
John Henry Newman once observed, “Calculation never made a hero.” The conservatives who crumple probably think they are cleverer than people like Sam. They calculate the penalties. They tell themselves it is better to live and fight again another day. They calculate, and that is why they will never be heroes. That would be bad enough, but they don’t stop there. In their fear of criticism, their terror at being called names like “racist,” they panicked and cut Sam off, just as they did Joe Sobran, Kevin Lamb and others. Liberals know “conservatives” will do this, and can make them jump through hoops like trained dogs. One wonders what they will think when the day of their death comes? What could be more mortifying than to feel that you have missed the plum for want of courage to shake the tree? The burden of their careful lives must be heavy.
Fired from The Washington Times, Sam went on to yeoman labor, year after year, for our race, civilization and nation. He wrote prodigiously and published widely. He spoke at every American Renaissance Conference, served on the board of directors of AR’s parent organization, was on the board of the Council of Conservative Citizens, and until a month before his death was editor of its newspaper, The Citizens Informer.
I never heard one whimper, one regret from Sam that he had lost his job, that he was cold-shouldered by former colleagues, that he was badgered and attacked by professional leftist witch-hunters. I don’t think Sam ever regretted the path he took. He personified the hero in the terms of the quotation from Amiel I cited above. Sam triumphed over fear of poverty, of suffering, of calumny, of sickness and isolation. He had the last laugh on his enemies and the false colleagues who betrayed him. Despite their efforts, he landed on his feet, and wrote and spoke more, and more powerfully, than ever.
Sam was admired and loved by a host of friends in a way that none of his detractors will be. He was and is a hero. Sam’s life was rich in honor. His life was well spent in dealing with things that matter, that are critical, that mean life or death for our people. Perhaps it is some consolation to reflect that as a well-spent day brings happy sleep, so a life well used like Sam’s brings if not a happy death, at least an honorable one.
Alas, Sam was cut off at his prime. We are bereft of his talents just when they are most needed. We honor Sam most by taking up the fallen torch, by rededicating ourselves to the cause for which he sacrificed and to which he dedicated himself. Our people at large may not know the measure of the man they have lost. But we know. And if our people are to survive and have a future, then in that future the name of Sam Francis will always be remembered.
Goodbye, friend. I will miss you.