Woodlawn Connection: Samuel Hammond, Jr.
By Jose R. Torruellas
Samuel Hammond, Jr. was born in South Carolina on July 30th, 1949. However, most of his family resided in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. In fact, it is because of this that Fort Lauderdale felt more like home than South Carolina. Samuel, otherwise known as “Bubba” by his family, was extremely gifted with great intellectual and physical capabilities as well as a fun-loving, humorous spirit. In 1967, Bubba graduated from Stranahan High School where he was part of both the football and track teams. His teammates referred to him as “tall and strong” with an unparalleled sense of friendship.
After his graduation from Stranahan High School, Samuel moved to South Carolina where he attended South Carolina State College to pursue higher education.
There was a bowling alley near the campus where the Caucasian owner began enforcing segregation policies against African Americans one of which included refusal of admission to non-whites.
Outraged by this, the students decided to protest the hostile actions of the owner. On Feb. 8, 1968 a group of students of the Historically Black College lit a bon fire on the campus. However, not all of the students protested, some actually sat and watched the wood burn in the fire. It was a peaceful demonstration projecting the rights guaranteed to them under the First Amendment of the United States’ Constitution.
In fact, several students that had attended the event remember it as an occasion that bore fruit to new ideologies and happiness. Yet, violence also struck. On that night, the national guard of South Carolina and highway patrol officers were called to the scene. When the highway patrolmen arrived they did not attempt to disperse the crowd, instead they opened fire against the students.
At a later time, an officer re-called that their response was based on there belief that a protestor threw a bottle at a patrolman. However, no evidence for this assertion has ever been confirmed. In addition, rather than using rubber bullets, police officers used live rounds which resulted in the deaths of three African Americans and several more. On that day, Samuel Hammond, Jr. was injured and rushed to the hospital where he took his final breath.
Although an attempt at justice was made, the patrolmen were tried for this crime; how-ever, a verdict of “not guilty” was declared by an all-white jury. His family was left in disbelief and saddened by no understanding the reasoning behind the verdict. They desired to know why, “of all the kids, why Bubba?” They felt as though “Bubba” was “a young man cut down in his youth.”
Samuel was brought home to Fort Lauderdale and laid to rest in Woodlawn Cemetery. In the end, this event exemplifies the American stigma of racism prevalent in our country at that time and as many other events left a lasting scar on individuals and the nation alike.