Celebration honors activist and county commissioner who died of COVID

The city will celebrate one of its longtime residents with an event in his honor.

The Johnny Ray Sampson Jr. Commissioner’s Day celebration is scheduled for 2-6 p.m. May 28 at Union Point Park.

The motto of the event is “Let the work I have done speak for me” in honor of Sampson’s tireless efforts to support the people of Craven County as an activist and as County Commissioner of Craven.

Sampson died at his home on November 5, 2000, of complications from COVID-19 while still a commissioner.

There will be a short show during which his wife, Ethel Belle Sampson, who is also a community activist and has served her community for many years alongside her husband, will deliver a short address.

“We didn’t want to overdo it,” said Marcia Sampson Beasley, the couple’s daughter. “With COVID in mind, we’ll be keeping the celebration simple this year.”

Beasley said the family plans to hold an event every year to honor his father.

After the program there will be music, free food, a raffle and fellowship.

Sampson was elected to the position on December 2, 1996. He served as Chairman of the Board from December 2, 2002 to December 1, 2003 and from December 4, 2006 to December 3, 2007.

Craven County Commissioner Johnnie Sampson died Nov. 5 at his home after a battle with COVID-19.

He has also served on the Craven County Tourism Authority, Eastern Carolina Workforce Development Board, Juvenile Crime Prevention Council, North Carolina Association of Black County Officials, and numerous other government and civic organizations.

He retired from NADEP at MCAS Cherry Point in 1991 as an electrical support mechanic and chief of training and received the Gold Leaf Pine from Governor Jim Hunt’s office, the state’s highest civilian honor.

On November 5, 2021, a proclamation from Mayor Dana Outlaw’s office was issued naming the Saturday before Memorial Day each year Johnnie Sampson Jr. Day.

According to the proclamation, Sampson was a champion of the needy, poor and oppressed, a community leader both politically and socially for nearly 70 years. He lived a life of service and was known as a true “prayer warrior” with a strong faith that made him a strong role model and leader.

Reporter Tina Adkins can be reached by email at [email protected] Please consider supporting local journalism by signing up for a digital subscription.

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