Sam Margolis

Samuel Margolis: 7/8/1910-1/25/2004

Family: His parents were Michael and Cecilia. . He had three siblings: Reuben, Sophie (Bady), and Abraham. He was married to Florence and had three children are Howard, Rod, and Larry.

Sam was born in Chicago but moved to Durham when he was young and he grew up in the close-knit Jewish community of Durham. Their parents were not actively religious, but the children participated in the Jewish social life of the community. His son, Howard, reports that Sam started dating his wife to be, Florence, when they shared the rumble seat of Sam FreedmanÕs car on a trip to a party with the Jewish teenagers of Danville, Va.

When Florence and Sam married in 1936, she worked as a secretary for a plumbing company and earned $12 a week. Sam worked for A & P and earned $16 a week. In 1944, with little opportunity to advance with A & P, Sam went to work for a pawn shop chain based in Atlanta that was setting up a business location in Durham. From 1952 to 1957, he relocated to Wilmington, first working for the same company and, for awhile, he had his own pawn shop and commuted from Wilmington to Jacksonville.

In 1957, Florence developed a slipped disc which led to surgery back in Durham at Duke. At that point, Sam came back to work in Durham for the same company that had employed him before. He stayed with that firm until 1965 when he started his own business, SamÕs Pawn Shop. He retired from that in 1983 but continued for a number of years to be an active businessman selling jewelry and buying, refurbishing, and selling real estate. Rabbi SagerÕs, in a moving eulogy at SamÕs funeral, noted his often unrecognized role as major tzedekah provider to the needy:

For decades, Sam Margolis ear was tuned to hear the poor person at the door. With his pawn shop situated near the bus station, at Durham's door on East Main Street, Sam was the custodian and dispenser of the Jewish community's tzedakah designated for distribution to those Jews who would pass through town. They were travelers, solicitors for causes and institutions, adventurers, or lost souls. They needed a handout, a bus ticket, an aspirin, a few hours of work. They learned to come to Sam's door. Soon, it was not only the Jews who would come to the pawn shop, but travelers of all faiths and colors. And not only travelers, but residents of town who were in need knew that they would get help and compassion from "Mr. Sam."

Eli Evans, son of former Durham Mayor Emmanuel "Mutt" Evans, referred to Sam as "the last of the great founders of the Jewish community of Durham".

Both Sam and Florence were active members of Beth El. He was superintendent of the religious school for five years in the early '70s and continued to have a keen interest in religious education to the end of his life. One special project that he initiated and promoted was an annual Jewish-topic essay contest for the children of the school. And he would come each year to give a lecture to the upper grades about his personal Jewish hero, Haym Solomon.

The handsome patio in front of the Synagogue entrance is the result of a donation from Sam and FlorenceÕs children, a lasting reminder of the important role they played for many years in the life of our community.