Fayette County doctor Ferrol Sams Jr. embarked on a writing career at age sixty and captured a national audience of readers with his witty, affectionate portraits of what Sams called "being raised right" between World War I and World War II in rural Georgia.
The Fayetteville native began his writing career in 1982, when he published Run with the Horsemen, a boy's account of growing up on an ancestral farm in Georgia. Sams continued his comic memoir of the prank-playing farm boy and aspiring doctor in The Whisper of the River (1984), a coming-of-age tale set during the 1930s at a Baptist college in Macon. He completed the trilogy in 1991 with the publication of When All the World Was Young, in which Sams' picaresque hero experiences World War II overseas as an Army surgical assistant.
Sams' other works include The Widow's Mite and Other Stories (1987), a collection of eight first-person stories that highlight the social problems of a small southern town, and Epiphany (1994), a volume of three philosophical novellas. His nonfiction books are The Passing: Perspectives of Rural America (1988), which comprises sixteen vignettes about vanished ways of rural life, and Christmas Gift! (1989), an account of one family's celebration of Christmas in Fayette County. In 2007 Sams published Down Town: The Journal of James Aloysius Holcombe, Jr. for Ephraim Holcombe Mookinfoos, a fictionalized chronicle of Fayette County and the origin of Peachtree City, told as a multigenerational family story that spans a century and a half from Reconstruction through the present.
With humor and old-fashioned moralizing, Sams's stories are about unlikely encounters and what people learn from them. A natural storyteller whose works have made him a popular writer in the South and garnered favorable national attention, Sams was honored in 2001 for fifty years of commitment and service to the people of Fayette County. Whisper of the River won the Townsend Prize for Fiction that year and was performed in 1992 for American Public Radio's Radio Reader. In 2006 Run with the Horsemen was selected by Atlantans as the inaugural text in the Atlanta Reads: One Book, One Community program.
Sams received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Georgia Writers Association in 2012 and died in 2013 at the age of ninety.
The following titles may be found in the Hall of Fame Library:
Christmas Gift! Atlanta: Longstreet Press, 1989.
Down Town: The Journal of James Aloysius Holcombe, Jr. for Ephraim Holcombe Mookinfoos. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 2007.
Epiphany: Stories. Atlanta: Longstreet Press, 1994.
The Passing: Perspectives of Rural America (paintings by Jim Harrison; words by Ferrol Sams) Marietta, Ga.: Longstreet Press, 1988.
The Passing: Stories. Atlanta: Longstreet Press, 1990.
Run with the Horsemen. Atlanta: Peachtree Publishers, 1982.
When All the World was Young. Atlanta: Longstreet Press, 1991.
The Whisper of the River. Atlanta: Peachtree Publishers, 1984.
The Widow's Mite & Other Stories. Atlanta: Peachtree Publishers, 1987.
The Jack Tarver Library (Macon), at Mercer University (Macon) -- Ferrol Sams' alma mater and an important setting in his work -- is the principal repository of Sams' papers, including his manuscripts, correspondence and other materials related to his writing career.
There are also groups of Ferrol Sams' short story manuscripts located in the Georgia Historical Society Research Center in Savannah and at the Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library of Emory University, Atlanta.