Charlton County Herald

February 8, 2006

By Chenell Baker

Samuel Chatman was a noble leader who served willingly in the community and impacted many lives through his leadership. He went above and beyond to make a difference in Charlton County and in the lives of others.

Chatman stressed the importance of receiving an education and the right to vote. He made sure that his children and grandchildren read quality materials and only bought educational things for them. He encouraged all he knew to do their best because ordinary was not an option.

His daughter, Claudette Smith, stated, “Dad always told me that education is something that no one can take from you. He stressed how important it is for people to be able to read and understand things for themselves. Once you comprehend and know something, no one can change your mind or fool you.”

After completing the eleventh grade in 1935, Chatman was employed by the BOE as an elementary school teacher in Mattox, Georgia. He also taught in St. George, Winokur and Traders Hill with the majority of his students older that him. Each community had a school and most of those schools were first through seventh grade. Many of the teachers in the county were only high school graduates themselves.

In 1943, Chatman was inducted into the United States Army and received an administrative job teaching the black soldiers how to read because of segregation. Chatman served in France, Germany, England, Belgium and Italy. He became Sergeant and returned to the United States after the war ended.

Chatman enrolled into Albany State College and graduated Magna Cum Laude in 1949 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Education. “As far as we know my dad is the first black from Charlton County to graduate from college,” stated Claudette.

After receiving his degree, Chatman taught at Albany State College Lab School, Waycross City School system, Cook County School system and twenty-three years in Charlton County School system. Samuel and his wife Sallie stressed the importance of education in each of their children. Two of them graduated at the top of their class. Their son, James, was Valedictorian and their daughter Yvonne was in the top ten percent of her class. Each one set their goals, achieved them and and have enriched the lives of others.

Samuel Chatman was known in Charlton County as the father of black voting. He would gather the blacks together and teach them how to register and vote. In the 1960s, black people began voting and during this time the paper ballot was being used. Chatman devoted precious time making sure the black people knew how to use the ballot correctly. When it was around election time, Chatman had a teaching session on voting at Mt. Carmel Baptist Church to demonstrate the proper way to vote. “Dad drew out the ballot on a cardboard and taught them how to mark the ballot. He would go over it many times to make sure everyone understood and knew how to do it” stated Claudette. His wife Sallie worked behind the scenes and was his support system.

Chatman also served as a member of the Jury Selection Commission, as a Notary Public and as an advisor to the local NAACP when the late Ferris Everett served as president.

Samuel Chatman has enriched many lives. What are you waiting on? This has been a moment in Black History.

Charlton  County Archives