Samuel Maxwell Speed was born in Oklahoma in 1915 and moved to the Emblem community when he was just one year old. From a young age he began singing Gospel music and honed his talents singing for the Lord. He graduated from Sulphur Springs High School and went to college in Commerce. Sam joined the Davis Street Baptist Church in the early 1940s and then enlisted in the service to fight for his country during World War II. He was stationed in South Africa and (if memory serves me correctly) he lost one lung. He was A Purple Heart recipient and returned to Hopkins County to continue his life.
Sam married Jewell Ethridge of Miller Grove, who preceded him in death in 1989, and later married Sue Rogers who preceded him in death in 2007. He has held the offices of Hopkins County Tax Assessor and Collector and County Treasurer, and has been a cattle rancher for the majority of his life. He is also a Mason and Woodsman of the World. For many years he lived in the Center Point or Possum Trot community just east of Miller Grove. Now in his 94th year, Sam Speed has conducted more singings at revivals, cemetery memorial services, funerals, courthouse singings and other events than most people can even count.
As far back as I can remember, there has always been a man named Sam Speed. Everybody knows who he is. Everybody associates him with singings, basketball games, and fishing. He has been at nearly every Miller Grove community function that I can think of, even though he has no children.
Sam has always been a man of integrity and very trustworthy. When my grandfather died, in November of 1982, my grandmother kept his cows for a short time. When she decided to sell them, Sam was interested in buying the cattle. He asked my grandmother how much she wanted for them and she said, “I’ll leave it up to you. You know what they’re worth better than I do.” She trusted Sam enough to know that he would be fair with his dealings.
An early memory for me was when my uncle bought my grandmother’s farm (around 1987-1988) which surrounds our land on three sides. My uncle had a pool dug for his cows, and one day a truck pulled up in our driveway. I was surprised to see Sam Speed get out with what looked like a small white Styrofoam cooler. When he came up to the house he told Momma that he had fish in the cooler to stock the pool with. Since the pool was close to our house, he went out of our gate into the pasture and dumped the cooler full of fish into the pool. I was puzzled because, at 4 or 5 years old, I thought you were supposed to catch the fish from the pool, not put more fish into the pool!
For years there wasn’t a basketball game that was played in the Miller Grove gym that you didn’t see Sam Speed in the stands. He was always encouraging the local youths to be involved in athletics. Monty Tipps told a story that one day Sam stopped to play catch with him. He said, “Sam, don’t you need a glove?” Sam said no and began to catch the baseball and throw it back to Monty. Sam caught the baseball no matter how hard Monty would throw the ball. Monty had a glove on and after about six or eight catches he realized that was about all he could handle from Sam. Even though Sam was in his 60s he was still strong enough to throw a pretty mean fast ball!
While talking to Sam during one of the annual End of School Stews that we have at Miller Grove, he told me about one of his most honoring times as a person in the community. He said that even though he never had a child to go to school at Miller Grove, the school dedicated the 1986 annual to him. He said he had received many awards and accolades over the years but the annual dedication was one of the most meaningful. The last line of the dedication in the 1986 Hornet reads: “Our schools, our communities, our churches, and our country need more men like Mr. Sam Speed.”
Last Sunday, Davis Street Baptist Church in Sulphur Springs hosted a “Sam Speed Day.” The services began a little after 10:30 a.m. with Bro. Tommy Hall talking to Sam and asking him how long he had been singing and where he started singing. Sam replied, “I was singing with my first quartet when I was 14, out at Independence.” He even recalled the song the quartet sang and quoted one of the verses. Bro. Tommy then asked, “Do you have any idea of how many revivals you have held singings at?” Sam thought and then said, “Over 600 I’m sure. Lots of them were two-week revivals. The church has to be ‘right’ before revival can take place, and usually the second week was the best. We saw lots of souls saved.” His responses to Bro. Tommy’s questions speak volumes about this man.
Singing continued throughout the morning service with several guests who spoke to the audience about how Sam had touched their lives. Delane Malone, Ina and Buddy Gore, Monty Tipps and several others shared how Sam had helped and uplifted them when they needed a little bit of encouragement.
At the conclusion of the service Hopkins County Judge Cletis Millsap presented Sam with a biographical proclamation naming Jan. 31, 2010, “Sam Speed Day” throughout the county. The service closed with Sam leading the congregation in a standard hymn, “Amazing Grace.”
I would be hard-pressed not to say that this service touched everyone’s life who was there. Thank you, Sam, for all that you have done for Hopkins County. To paraphrase a line from the song Delane Malone sang: I hope to stroll over Heaven with you one fine day, neighbor Sam.
The main event in Miller Grove this week is homecoming and all of the buzz that happens around the Hornet’s hive during this special time. Traditionally the week of Homecoming is dubbed “Spirit Week” with each day being a different dress-up day to show school spirit. Monday was Pajama Day, Tuesday was Business Professional Day, today was Camo Day, Thursday will be Crazy Hat Day, and Friday will be Green and Gold Day. Friday there will be a pep rally starting at 2:45 p.m. at the high school gym. The crowning of Homecoming King and Queen will be at the conclusion of the varsity boys’ basketball game. The varsity girls’ game will start at 6 p.m.
Lori (Combs) Northcutt is organizing a reunion for Miller Grove graduates from the 1970s-present. It will be held in the high school library this Friday. It will start at 5:30 p.m. and end around 9 p.m. If you can, please come out to the reunion and stay for the homecoming basketball games and festivities.
I know many of you know Mr. R.A. Long of the Gafford Chapel community. He will be having a 90th birthday celebration in his honor on Saturday, Feb. 6, at Trinity Harvest Church of God in Sulphur Springs. Friends are invited to the reception, beginning at 2 p.m., with the family requesting no gifts. Your presence is gift enough. Congratulations R.A. on achieving such a milestone in your life!
Happy birthday to Lance Mabe on Feb. 4 and Stephen Sparks on Feb. 6.
Did any of you notice the article in the “Texas Co-op Power” magazine from FEC about Fran Sparks’ Ranch Rodeo? There was a nice write-up and pictures about the event.
Several Miller Grove folks have been seen lately at the casino in Grant, Okla. One retired couple from Miller Grove was seen there three times last week.
Mark your calendars for the annual Miller Grove Water Supply meeting and barbecue supper. This year it will be held at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 20, in the old gym.
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