Craven County Commissioner Johnnie Sampson Jr. died at 9:03 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020, of complications from COVID-19, which he had been battling for about a month.

  • Craven County Board of Commissioners required to select Sampson’s successor.

Commissioner Sampson, 87, was tested Oct. 5 and the test came back positive the same day. He and his wife of more than 60 years, the Rev. Ethel Sampson, were both hospitalized in their battle against COVID-19.

They had been discharged but Commissioner Sampson took a turn for the worse and was battling both COVID-19 and pneumonia.

Craven County hosted a moment of silence at 2 p.m., on Friday, Nov. 6, 2020 in honor of Commissioner Sampson and all county flags at county facilities will be flown at half-staff to mourn his passing.

Flags at city buildings have been lowered to half-staff until further notice as Mayor Dana Outlaw, the Board of Aldermen and the citizens of New Bern mourn the death of one of New Bern and Craven County’s biggest advocates and most loyal friends, the city announced in a statement.

Funeral arrangements are pending with Haskins Funeral Home of Goldsboro. Go here for his obituary.

According to the most recent data released by the Craven County Health Department, Craven County has 2,450 confirmed COVID-19 cases as of noon Friday, Nov. 6, 2020. Of those, 208 were active and 16 were hospitalized.

Commissioner Sampson was the 64th Craven County resident to die of COVID-19-related causes and arguably the most prominent Craven County resident.


U.S. Rep. G. K. Butterfield (NC-01) issued the following statement on passing of longtime Craven County Commissioner Johnnie Sampson Jr.

“A native of Craven County, Commissioner Sampson dedicated decades of passionate service to the needs of his community. From his civic involvement with the Craven County Voters’ League to serving on the board of the Juvenile Crime Prevention Council, as well as serving over twenty years as Commissioner—Johnnie Sampson Jr. poured his energy, conviction and love into the Craven County community. He was a friend, a man of passion and principle who impacted the lives of many. Though we mourn the loss of Johnnie Sampson Jr., we also celebrate and honor his life of service. I share my deepest condolences to Johnnie Sampson Jr.’s family and friends during this difficult time.”

Gov. Roy Cooper on Facebook: “I am saddened to hear that Craven County Commissioner Johnnie Sampson has passed away and my thoughts are with his loved ones. He was a true public servant and committed community leader who worked tirelessly for Craven County and our state.”

N.C. Rep.-elect Steve Tyson, who as a county commissioner served with Sampson, said on Facebook, “I just got word that Commissioner Johnnie Sampson has passed. My brother Chuck and I both served on the County Board of Commissioners with Johnnie. My father worked with him at Cherry Point, and I went to school with his daughter Marsha. He was a great man of faith, and we can rest assure he is with Christ our Lord. He gave so much of his life for the people that needed help the most, he was a champion of the needy, the poor, the downtrodden. Although we sometimes disagreed on policy, we were never disagreeable. I love you Johnnie, you’re the best. Rest In Peace my brother.”

Craven County Board of Commissioners Chairman Thomas Mark, in a prepared statement, said, “I, along with all of the Craven County Commissioners, staff and citizens, am saddened by the passing of Commissioner Johnnie Sampson, Jr.  Commissioner Sampson dedicated his life and his time as a County Commissioner to helping others and making Craven County a better place to live for all people.  He will be remembered for his fierce advocacy for children, the elderly and the value of local government to its citizens.  He has been a champion of the people of Craven County and provided hope to those citizens who need it the most.  I ask that you please remember and pray for Commissioner Sampson’s family and friends as they mourn the loss of a great man.”

Craven County Commissioner Jason Jones said on Facebook, “I had the honor to serve with Commissioner Sampson for 10 years on the Board of Commissioners. He had many great attributes. I believe Mr. Johnnie can be described as a man who loved God and loved his fellow man! His service will be greatly missed. Jennifer, Emily and I extend our deepest sympathy to Mrs Ethel and the family.”

New Bern Mayor Dana Outlaw, in a statement issued by the city, said, “He had the greatest love for New Bern and Craven County. His was a heartbeat of service; a mind for solutions; and a spirit of thoughtfulness especially for those who needed his help the most. We will miss him terribly and our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Ethel, his family and friends, and all of New Bern and Craven County.”

New Bern Alderwoman Jameesha Harris said on Facebook: “Craven County has lost a great one!”

Other responses on Facebook include:

Jim Hicks, board attorney: “In 27 years of representing 11 local governments, I never encountered an elected official more concerned about his fellow human being than Mr. Johnnie. Godspeed Commissioner Sampson. Well done good and faithful servant.”

Anne Cooper Schout, founder of Duffyfield Phoenix Project: “I have a very heavy heart tonight. I just learned that Commissioner Johnnie Sampson passes away this evening. He was so much to so many and will be sorely missed. Rest in Peace Mr. Johnnie. Please keep the Sampson Family in your prayers.”

Wendy Card, publisher of New Bern Now: “My heart breaks for Mrs. Ethel Sampson and their family and friends. May you Rest in Peace, Commissioner Sampson.”

The Country Biscuit restaurant: “Our hearts go out to the friends and family of Commissioner Johnnie Sampson. He was a wonderful leader, man of faith and we loved serving him every time he stopped by.”

P.J. Connelly, Deputy Political Director, North Carolina Democratic Party: “Johnnie was easily one of the best, faith-filled, and gracious people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing (second maybe only to Ethel). He passed away as he did everything else, peacefully. One of my first thoughts was regret that he won’t be here to see the election results. I then realized that my anxieties were not his. I am sure he held true to his belief that God is, has been and will be in control. He was an example in everything, even death. Whatever ‘it’ is, Johnnie and Ethel have surely figured it out. Please wear a mask.”

WCTI TV journalist Valentina Wilson said on Facebook: “My heart is heavy tonight. Commissioner Johnnie Sampson gave so much to the community! The last time I saw him and his wife, Rev. Ethel Sampson, was at their home last year. They invited me in for a story to see how God had blessed them to repair the damage from Hurricane Florence. Through it all, they kept helping OTHER families, because that’s what they do. Prayers for the Sampson family. 🙏🏽😢🙏🏽”

His legacy

The Rev. Ethel Sampson, left, and Commissioner Johnnie Sampson.

Commissioner Sampson has been a member of the Craven County Board of Commissioners since December 1996. He served as Chairman of the Board from Dec. 2, 2002 through Dec. 1, 2003 and Dec. 4, 2006 through Dec. 3, 2007.  Commissioner Sampson also served on the Craven County Tourism Authority, Eastern Carolina Workforce Development Board, Juvenile Crime Prevention Council, North Carolina Association of Black County Officials and many other government and civic organizations.

He retired from NADEP at MCAS Cherry Point in 1991 as Power Support Mechanic and Training Leader. Commissioner Sampson is a native of Craven County and his civic involvements are numerous, including Craven County Voters’ League, Concerned Citizens, NAACP, and the Duffyfield Residents’ Council.

During a Board of Commissioners meeting recently, Commissioner Sampson was the only county commissioner who spoke out against reopening public schools due to the threat of COVID-19.

Both Commissioner and the Rev. Sampson have received the Order of the Longleaf Pine, North Carolina’s highest recognition to its residents.

The street Reverend Sampson grew up on was renamed Sampson Street in their honor.


  1. Sister Beasley & Sampson Family,
    My condolence to you, during
    this difficult Season, of the departure
    of your love one. May God Continue to Encompass You In His Marvelous Care.
    In Christian Love,
    Pat Solomon ~
    First Baptist Church of Progress Village

  2. Sister Beasley & Family,
    We are sorry for your loss. Remembering You in Prayer, for Peace and Consolation.

    First Baptist Church of Progress Village Sunday Morning Adult Bible Class

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