Edith Spurlock Sampson, the first African American representative in the United Nations from the United States was born October 13, 1901 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania as one of eight children. Sampson's humble beginnings highlights her significant accomplishments in life. Because of the financial needs of the family, Sampson left school at age 14 and worked at a market cleaning fish. She was able later to continue her education and graduate from high school. She went on to attend and receive a social work degree from New York School of Social Work which was followed in 1925 by a Bachelor of Law Degree from John Marshall Law School in Chicago. She became the first woman to receive a Master of Law Degree from Loyola University in 1927.
President Truman appointed Edith S. Sampson as an alternate U.S, delegate to the United Nations on August 24, 1950, thereby making her the first African American representative in the United Nations from the United States. While in the United Nations Sampson was a member of the Social, Humanitarian, and Cultural Committee. She served in the United Nations until 1953, was on the U.S. Commission for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) during President Eisenhower's Administration, and was the first African American U.S. representative to NATO in 1961.
When her careers with the United Nations and NATO ended, Sampson in 1962 became the first African American elected female judge in Illinois after winning her campaign to be an associate judge to the Municipal Court of Chicago. Judge Sampson died in Chicago, Illinois on October 8, 1979 at age 77.
Words That Matter
Judge Edith Spurlock Sampson
The doors have not been opened, but they have been unlocked. If we press against them, they will open." (Readers Digest 1968 Interview)