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In Memory of Bill Sampson
by Elizabeth Allen
On Saturday, November 3, several carloads of Ku Klux Klansmen gunned down five members of the Communist Workers Party as they were preparing for a march in Greensboro, North Carolina. Among the dead was Bill Sampson, whom some of you may remember as an active member of Science for the People. The son of a school teacher and a research chemist, he entered Harvard Divinity School after graduating from Augustana College, where he had been active in student rights and the antiwar movement. At Harvard, he fought against academic racism arid the university’s investments in South Africa. An active member of SFTP, both in its internal politics and its activity groups, he was particularly concerned with health care. He entered the medical school of the University of Virginia in 1975, feeling that he could be most effective as a doctor. Some of his patients were brown lung victims from textile mills. He left medical school in 1977. He could do more as a union organizer, he believed, than as a physician. He moved to Greensboro, married, and went to work in Cone Mills as a communist organizer. His organization recently had shifted its emphasis from the mills to the Ku Klux Klan. The “Death of the Klan” rally they organized that Saturday resulted in their deaths instead.
Racism has reared its ugly head not only in the South but in northern cities as well. We must work together not only to defeat the purposes of these groups but the system that fosters them. If we can be successful in that, we will have created the most lasting memorial for Bill Sampson.