From Sharecropper to Shareholder to Sharing with Others
Sam Anderson, a successful businessman, generous philanthropist and longtime supporter of Pacific Symphony, passed away in April at the age of 86. Born in the midst of the Great Depression in Smith County, Mississippi, his parents were sharecroppers who eventually purchased a small country store and moved into a modest house with no plumbing. He was six years old before he ever took a bath in a real bathtub. “This difficult beginning, watching my mother and father scrimping to provide, had a profound effect on my lifelong attitude toward finances,” Anderson said. “Throughout my life, I have tended to read restaurant menus from the right side and I have owned just three new automobiles.”
Anderson’s mother died when he was nine years old. Young Sam lived with family members and friends while his father scraped out a living. As a teenager, he worked numerous jobs for little money, earning his way as a carhop, a grocery store stock boy and a construction worker. His grandparents offered to send him to Mississippi College. Many years later, Anderson said, “they gave a gift that would keep on giving.”
Originally, Anderson wanted to become a doctor, but he left medical school after two years to pursue a career as a salesman in the pharmaceutical industry. He found he had a unique knack for sales and business, and he built a successful career over four decades while also investing wisely in real estate. Eventually his career led him and his family to relocate to Newport Beach.
“Even though I later lived the American dream, the demons of the life I left behind often chase me. I still have shallowly repressed memories of my struggles between the ages of nine and 18, a period when I worked hard and was viewed by some in the community as a ragamuffin—a near orphan living a shiftless life. I was uncertain of any life beyond that of my father’s, who worked numerous jobs for minimal pay.”
Excerpt from Sam Anderson’s 2018 memoir, From the Cotton Patch to High Cotton
Sam Anderson’s first wife, Mary Ann, died soon after the couple celebrated their 39th wedding anniversary. He married Susan Smith Jenkins in 2001. The couple’s close-knit, blended family includes their three children and five grandchildren. Over the years, Sam and Susan have been generous supporters of Pacific Symphony. They were the co-chairs of the 2017-18 season opening night celebration. That successful event raised nearly $200,000 for the orchestra’s award-winning artistic and education programs. They have sponsored numerous Symphony performances and have been leading supporters of the orchestra’s Giving Tuesday campaigns, providing generous matching funds that inspired others to give.
Sam and Susan shared a simple desire, as Sam put it, “to save the world.” In addition to their generous support of Pacific Symphony, the couple has given their time and resources to multiple charitable organizations in California, Mississippi and in Africa, where they support a school in Tanzania.
Sam Anderson will be deeply missed and remembered fondly by the Pacific Symphony family.