First Black Award-Winning Archer in Pennsylvania


Henry Sams

For Henry A. Sams, target and field archery are unsurpassed as outdoor sports. The 37 year-old bowman, who lives at 5840 Ludlow Street, is a member of the Philadelphia Archery Club and New Jersey’s Aldebarans. As the first Negro in both organizations, Sams had little difficulty.

Avid Bowman. Philadelphia Tribune August 30, 1952 pg 10

So why am I blogging about Henry Sams. Well, it is because he is the half-brother of Rachel H. Flowers. If you read the previous post, you’ll recall that his mother Nancy remarried to Henry Sams Sr. in 1913. Two years late she gave birth to her son in Jacksonville, FA. The only census document I have for Henry Jr. is from the 1930s. I cannot find him in the 1920 or 1940 Census.

1930 United States Federal Census-3

After searching through an archive of black historical newspapers, I found about fifty articles on Henry, most of them pertaining to his athletic career. From track, basketball, soccer, and archery, Henry was a star. People called him the giant, which I believe is a good name for a person who stands 6’7”. Hernrry

Here is Henry Sams with archer Pauline Booker after winning the championship.

With all this being said, Henry was extremely passionate about archery. In November of 1955, Sams won the Archery Club Crown. He was the first black to join the group and to capture the division’s title. Sams was also an Eastern Regional and State Class B champion. Earlier that year on July 23rd, Henry Sams came close to winning an International Tournament. In the article, the writer noted that Sams first developed a liking for archery in 1949. He had a few barrier when joining the all-white archery clubs, but he was eventually accepted. Yet, Sams found greater difficulty becoming a member of the National Guard.

national guard

When the article Varied Reactions Greet State’s Jim Crow National Guard Set-up was written in 1948, there had been a 30 year fight to get blacks into the National Guard, but he made it.

Now to more of his personal life, Sams was first married to an unknown woman and they had a child together named Cathy Sams. He remarried to Edna Sams and they remained together until his death eighteen months later in 1975. He lived the last four years of his life in Delaware County as a teach in the Vocational-Technical Department of Chester High School. He attended Drexel University, Penn State, Chicago State College, and was enrolled at Temple University. He was the first black award-winning archer in PA, a member of the Act 101 Advisory Council of Cheyney State College, the American Vocational Association, the Penn State Education Association, Chester Upland Education Association, the Photographic Society of America, Boy Scouts of America, and he was also the former captain in the PA National Guard. In his obituary?( well it was more of a editor writing about his dearest memories of Sams), it stated that he is survived by his wife, a daughter, three sisters, Rachel Ellerbee, Gladys Stevenson, and Hilda Wilson, and two brothers, Vincent Flowers and John Patience. All of his sisters are now married and I have no clue who John Patience is, but surely I will find out sooner or later.

Until the next post.

Henry Allen Sams (1915-1975)




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