Ferrol Sams | Fayetteville, Georgia
A physician, humorist and storyteller, Ferrol Sams did not begin his published writing career until he was 60 years old; but when he did, he penned a story that sprang straight from his roots in rural Fayette County. That book, Run With the Horseman, was the first in his nationally acclaimed trilogy about Porter “Sambo” Osborne, Jr., a prank-playing farm boy and aspiring doctor growing up on an ancestral farm in Georgia whose misadventures make up a comic memoir of childhood in the South.
Porter’s coming of age tale mirrors Sams’s own Fayette County boyhood. Born September 26, 1922, to parents Mildred Matthews and Ferrol Sams, Sr. (he was the Fayette County school superintendent), Sams, whom his father called “Sambo,” was one of four children. He was born in Fayetteville in a home built by his great-grandfather in 1848 and can trace his ancestors back six generation to James Sams, who settled in rural Fayette County in 1820. Like Porter Osborne, Sams grew up between World Wars I and II, experiencing the Great Depression in the rural South.
Sams attended Mercer University in Macon, graduating in 1942. His medical studies at Emory University in Atlanta were interrupted when he joined the United States Army Medical Corps during World War II, serving from 1943 to 1947 and seeing action in France. Sams continued his medical studies after the war, graduating from Emory in 1949. In 1948, he married his wife, Helen—also a doctor—and the two of them practiced medicine in Fayette County until they retired in 2006.
Sams began keeping handwritten notes about his childhood in a spiral notebook in the late 1970s. At first his only intention was to tell his four children and ten grandchildren what it was like growing up in rural Georgia during the two World Wars. Those notes, howeve, grew into Run with the Horseman.
Sams’s second novel, The Whisper of the River, published in 1984, continues Porter's adventures during the 1930s, as he enrolls at Willingham University, a Baptist college in Macon. Despite the religious structure of the school, the self-righteous Porter indulges in pranks and reexamines his own beliefs.
Faced with writer's block about how to continue with Porter's story, Sams followed his first two novels with The Widow's Mite and Other Stories (1987) and two nonfiction works, The Passing: Perspectives of Rural America (1988) and Christmas Gift! (1989).
But in 1991, Sams returned to Porter Osborne Jr. with the publication of When All the World Was Young. The novel begins in June 1942, during World War II, with Pfc. Osborne working as a surgical technician for the army during the invasion of Normandy, France. This final volume of the trilogy finds the self-indulgent, practical joker Osborne, obsessed with sex and dating, returning home a wiser man, having maintained his code of honor and compassion. The book won the Townsend Prize for Literature that year and was performed in 1992 for American Public Radio's Radio Reader.
All of Sams’s works are rooted in the oral tradition of southern humor and folklore. His engaging fiction celebrates love of the land, the changing southern landscape, and what Sams calls “being raised right” in the rural South.
Ferrol Sams was honored in 2001 for 50 years of commitment and service to the people of Fayette County. In 2006, Atlantans selected Run with the Horsemen as the inaugural text in the Atlanta Reads: One Book, One Community program. In 2007, Sams was inducted into the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame.
Ferrol Sams Bibliography
- Run with the Horsemen (1982)
- The Whisper of the River (1984)
- The Widow’s Mite and Other Stories (1987)
- The Passing: Perspectives of Rural America (1988)
- Christmas Gift! (1989)
- When All the World Was Young (1991)
- Epiphany (1994)
- Down Town (2007)
All of Ferrol Sams's books can be purchased at Amazon.com.