Wednesday, February 16, 2005


Samuel Francis, a syndicated columnist and author, died Tuesday night at a Washington-area hospital of complications following major heart surgery. He was 57.

Mr. Francis was an editorial writer for The Washington Times and served from 1987 to 1991 as the deputy editorial page editor. He remained a staff columnist through September 1995.

Mr. Francis received the Distinguished Writing Award for editorial writing from the American Society of Newspaper Editors in both 1989 and 1990, and was a finalist for the Scripps Howard Foundation’s National Journalism Award (Walker Stone Prize) for editorial writing for those years.

Mr. Francis emerged in the 1990s as a leading voice of traditional conservatism.

“He was a fine writer and a brilliant scholar, who had the courage of his convictions,” said Patrick Buchanan, who had both social and professional relationships with Mr. Francis. “He had a tremendous depth of knowledge and read as deeply as anyone I’ve known.”

Mary Lou Forbes, commentary editor of The Times, who worked closely with Mr. Francis during his tenure at the newspaper, said: “I remember Sam as a scholarly, challenging and sometimes pungent writer, who distinguished his craft with a remarkable appreciation of history and literature. … In person, his witty and sage observations of the passing scene brightened the atmosphere where he labored.”

A Tennessee native, Mr. Francis staunchly defended the South and its cultural heritage and proudly held memberships in both the Sons of the American Revolution and the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

“Sam Francis came from a long tradition of scholarly Southerners that is now often forgotten,” said Peter Brimelow, author of “Alien Nation,” whose Web site carried Mr. Francis’ columns. “Sam’s great value … was his unflinching disregard of contemporary taboos. He was always prepared to say the unsayable.”

Mr. Francis frequently expressed provocative views on topics of history, race and culture that were often contested by other conservatives. “Mass immigration means revolution, the displacement of one people and its culture by others,” he wrote last year. On the 40th anniversary of the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling ” which declared mandated segregated public schools unconstitutional ” Mr. Francis called it “the most dangerous and destructive Supreme Court decision in American history.”

In his last column, published Jan. 27, Mr. Francis criticized President Bush’s second inaugural address: “The president … confirmed once and for all that the neoconservatism to which he has delivered his administration and the country is fundamentally indistinguishable” from liberalism.

Mr. Francis graduated from the Baylor School in his native Chattanooga, received a bachelor’s degree from Johns Hopkins University in 1969, and earned master’s and doctorate degrees in history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He was an analyst of foreign affairs and security issues at the Heritage Foundation and later served as legislative assistant for national security affairs to Sen. John P. East, North Carolina Republican.

Graveside services will be held Feb. 25 at the Forest Hills Cemetery in Chattanooga. In addition to his sister, Julia Francis Irwin, survivors include a nephew, Michael Joseph Irwin Jr., and two great-nephews, Michael Joseph Irwin III and John Addison Irwin, all of Chattanooga.

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