The life of Sam Snipes: One man’s view

by George Price

Samuel Moon Snipes died on December 31st, 2018, at the age of 99. Born in 1919, he was an iconic figure in our area. He lived a life dedicated to the community and the land.

There are too many accomplishments and associations of Sam’s to cover here, but for a couple.

Sam changed my life in profound ways. In 1963, my family moved to Levittown and I turned 10-years-old. I met Sam and his family at Falls Friends Meetinghouse (Quakers).

My family was in crisis. My father had abandoned us and my mom was struggling to support four kids. We had moved from Pines Lake, New Jersey, which at the time was a segregated community. You could not live there if you were a person of color.

I didn’t know that six years earlier Sam had been the lawyer for the Myers family, the first black family to move into Levittown and that Falls Meeting was a center of support for them.

I was welcomed into Falls Meeting and the Snipes family farm became a refuge for me from my troubled family.

One Saturday, when I was 11, Sam drove a farm stake body truck to Bristol Terrace, which at the time along with Bloomsdale Gardens, were the default black ghettos of Lower Bucks County. He picked up about a dozen or so young black men and we drove back to Falls Meeting.

Sam set us up with trowels and mortar and a quick lesson on how to repoint the graveyard stonewall. Then he left us for the day.

At first I was a bit intimidated, not only were these guys a lot older than me – they were black. I had never hung out with black people before and my family history was not very friendly to African Americans.

My fear quickly morphed into joy. We had a great day as we worked and joked. I became the mortar mixer and brought mortar to each man, as he needed it.

The guys went out of their way to include me – explaining jokes that went over my head – and being very accommodating to their much younger co-worker.

I was part of the crew and I loved it. At the end of the day Sam drove them back to Bristol Terrace.

He wrote each one a check for their pay and arranged with the local storekeeper to cash the checks. We did this for a few more Saturdays.

The next year, when I was 12, with Sam and Barbara’s (Sam’s first wife) encouragement, I joined the Bucks County NAACP Youth Council.

I was the only white kid. There were representatives from every block in Bristol Terrace and I was the representative for all of Levittown – we all got a good laugh out of that.

I learned from Sam and Barbara that everyone deserves respect and dignity and that our lives belong to our community and it is our duty and privilege to serve.

I took all of that to heart and much more, and spent much of my career as a social worker serving inner-city kids.

As I look back on Sam’s life and my friendship with him I feel incredibly blessed and enriched to have had the opportunity to learn the life lessons that he taught.