Sam Francis died of a heart aneurism, at the early age of 57, seven years ago today (February 15). But his work is living on in the alt-right blogosphere and even figured in last week’s hysteria over VDARE.com Editor Peter Brimelow’s appearance on a ProEnglish CPAC panel (Sam was one of the alleged “white supremacists” that VDARE.com has published). Two collections of his works, Shots Fired: Sam Francis on America’s Culture War and Essential Writings on Race , have appeared since his death.
And, significantly, Sam’s key concept of Middle American Radicals (MARS) is very much alive today, in the form of the Tea Party movement. As Sam described the MARS concept in his book Revolution From the Middle :
Middle American Radicals are essentially middle-income, white, often ethnic voters who see themselves as an exploited and dispossessed group, excluded from meaningful political participation, threatened by the tax and trade policies of the government, victimized by its tolerance of crime, immigration and social deviance, and ignored or ridiculed by the major cultural institutions of the media and education.
Sam’s career spanned the brief lifetime of paleoconservatism and he also was around for the start of the resurgent Alternative Right (Peter Brimelow prefers “Right Opposition”) in the early 2000s. Sam was unquestionably an inspiration for that movement, which acknowledges racial identity and human biodiversity (HBD) and the role of politics, religion, feminism and even capitalism in the decline of Western civilization.
At his career peak, in the early-to-mid 1990s, Sam was on the editorial staff of the Washington Times and his columns were nationally syndicated. He was also a columnist for Chronicles magazine and occasionally appeared on TV and radio. In addition, he was a frequent contributor to American Renaissance and Middle American News.
But Sam was fired from the Washington Times in 1995 for a speech he made at an American Renaissance conference. And one of the first Media Matters witch hunts was against him, in December 2004, for writing a column critical of a Monday Night Football skit featuring a black player ogling a towel-clad white actress. (Black football coach Tony Dungy was also critical—he called it racially offensive—but there were no calls for his firing).
As Peter Brimelow (whose VDARE.com gave Sam’s columns a web home after they were dropped, without explanation, by Townhall.com) wrote after Sam’s death:
His fate cruelly paralleled that of the conservative movement to which he gave his life: long years of obscure labor, bravely borne, followed by dispossession at the moment of victory.
By the time the Republican Party for which he had worked so long had won Congress and the White House, he was effectively in exile, utterly alienated from the peculiar invade-the-world invite-the-world heresy that had suddenly and unexpectedly seized control of it. Sam's firing from the Washington Times in 1995 was, in retrospect, a harbinger of this coup.
It is, however, as a friend that I remember Sam Francis here.
I knew Sam for roughly eight years. Thinking of him takes me back to the Washington DC scene of the mid-1990s to mid-2000s, culminating in the dark night of Dubya, when many conservative outcasts—race realists, paleoconservatives, Buchanan supporters, isolationists, traditionalist Catholics and right-libertarians—would meet for dinners, drinks and social events and debate the issues of the day.
I would attend various events once or twice a month and it seemed Sam was at every one. Whenever I knew of a group of friends getting together for dinner I would invite Sam along. Unless he was going out of town, he would almost always accept. Sam was truly in his element when surrounded by friends and others who shared his beliefs.
So what was Sam Francis like?
The Sam I first knew was probably around 300 pounds (although he would lose a great deal of weight by the end of his life). He was a lifelong bachelor and often dressed like it. He lived in mostly-black Prince George’s (PG) County, Maryland and once remarked that “I am the last white man on my block and yet I get lectured about multiculturalism and diversity by people who live in all-white neighborhoods.” I never asked him why he lived in PG County and it still puzzles me today.
In his obituary of Sam, Peter Brimelow wrote “I suspect he was lonely.” I also suspect this, as Sam would often call me at night to chat. Of course, I was always pleased to hear from him. But Sam would have made an excellent husband and father and it is sad that he did not have immediate family around him. This cost him at the end, since he had to drive himself to the hospital while having a heart aneurism, because PG County ambulances refused to go out that day due to a major snow storm.
But Sam was close to his sister and nephews in Tennessee and had somewhere to go for Christmas and Thanksgiving. He also had many friends in the DC area and beyond. His funeral in Chattanooga was notably well-attended.
A dinner or phone chat with Sam was quite an experience, and filled with Sam’s trademark humor and wisdom. Pat Buchanan describes it well:
“With his intelligence, vast knowledge and droll wit, Sam was the most entertaining of dinner companions. His barbs and anecdotes about friends and adversaries had those at his table laughing so loud that other patrons in the restaurant wondered what was going on.”
Sam was not one to talk about himself, but in these conversations he would occasionally give glimpses into his world. He grew up in the segregated South—something which certainly did not embarrass him—and was a libertarian as a young man.
But it was the humorous stories Sam told about his life that I mostly remember.
Despite his column, he was only occasionally recognized around the DC area. But once he was waiting in a store line when a big biker type came over to him and gruffly asked: “Aren’t you Sam Francis?” Sam said he briefly thought of lying, but admitted that he was and braced for an attack. The biker smiled, shook his hand, said he was a huge fan, and that Sam “told it like it is.”
Another time, Sam spoke of a karate master who offered a demonstration at his high school. To demonstrate the power of his art, he picked the biggest football player out of the crowd and told the guy to try to hit him. The football player threw a punch and laid the karate master out.
The Sam Francis I knew was a huge gossip and he had stories about nearly everyone in the conservative movement. One involved a prominent Christian conservative leader who told Sam about a trip to Haiti. He had felt wary, sick and uncomfortable the whole trip and finally realized, he said, what was wrong with Haiti. Sam was expecting his friend to express an awakening to racial reality. Instead, the man announced he was the victim of a voodoo curse.
For all Sam’s funny stories, one serious moment that stands out for me was when I was sitting at the table behind Sam at an American Renaissance conference. The speaker was Nick Griffin, head of the British National Party.
Griffin was asked about the reputation of some BNP members for being rough, working class types. He replied that it was true that some BNP members drink too much—“but you try working at a construction job all day and see if you don’t need a drink after work.”
At these words, Sam jumped up and gave a loud and heartfelt round of applause. Sam was usually very laconic and controlled, but these words really moved him.
I think this incident says a lot about Sam. His conservatism was not driven by an ideology such as the free market, democracy or anti-Communism. Sam cared deeply about the regular Americans who live, work and die in this country. Imperfect as they are, these were his people. And he tried through his columns, speeches and books to speak for them when few others would. (Of course, this is exactly the dichotomy that Charles Murray writes about in his just-released Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010).
For this, Sam Francis paid a high price. If he had held his tongue about black-on-white crime, anarcho-tyranny, the immigration invasion, endless wars that do not benefit America and other taboo subjects, he would likely have risen to become editor of a conservative newspaper or journal. He could have been Rich Lowry!
Instead, Sam was often the only mainstream voice speaking out about these issues. But it will secure for him a central place as an authentic conservative and patriotic movement develops in America.
Peter Bradley (email him) writes from Washington D.C.