Pastors' Memoirs

Samuel Everett Donald, 1909-1995

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Samuel Everett Donald was born on June 8, 1909, in the city of Clifton Forge, Virginia. Samuel attended the public schools in Clifton Forge and then enrolled in Lynchburg College and received a B.A. degree. After graduating from college, he attended the Divinity School at Duke University for three years and received his B.D. degree. He was ordained an elder in the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, in 1931.

His first pastorate was a one-year appointment at Boonsboro Church in Lynchburg. Samuel then moved to New York City to study at Columbia University. While there he worked at the Church of All Nations on the lower East Side and supervised 27 boys clubs whose purpose was to bring gangs off the streets and train them in Christian values. Opportunities for sports and Scouting activities were also made available. In 1935, he left his schooling and took a job for a year with the American Friends Service Committee which sought to keep the United States out of the war. When this organization became bankrupt, he returned to the Virginia Annual Conference and was appointed to build a church in the Kekoughtan community of Hampton. His salary was $100 a month which was paid by the Home Mission Board of the Methodist Church in Virginia. In time, this congregation became what is today Aldersgate United Methodist Church in Hampton. At this church he met his wife to be, Vi Taylor, but they were not married until 1945.

In 1939, Samuel received an appointment as First Lieutenant in the United States Army to serve in the capacity of a chaplain. Subsequently he was commissioned Captain (1941) and Major (1945).

In the spring of 1941, he was assigned to the Philippines as assistant to the chaplain in charge of Manila and the Subic Bay areas with offices located on Corregidor Island. The following is a quote from Samuel Donald about his next experiences:

"In the late spring of 1942, Bataan surrendered to the Japanese. On the night of the surrender of Corregidor three things happened: our flag went down in defeat; we experienced an earthquake; and all the ammunition at the lower end of the Bataan Peninsula was blown up.

"The following day we were taken by the Japanese on a 125-mile death march during the course of which many American soldiers were bayoneted, shot, or died of exhaustion. Approximately 5,000 men entered Camp O'Donnell where water was scarce and food was practically nonexistent. During the first two months of our stay at Camp O'Donnell, I personally conducted the services for 2,700 Americans who died there of starvation or were murdered."

Eventually, Chaplain Donald was taken with other prisoners to Kyushu, Japan, where "the forces were separated into groups of approximately 100 and placed in different camps over the island, some working in coal mines and some in the steel mills. Without going into detail, suffice it to say that we received very harsh treatment, poor food, little cleanliness and were forced to go barefooted, even though the weather dropped as low as zero degrees. Those men who died in the prison camp there were cremated and the services were conducted by me." Chaplain Donald remained a prisoner of war until September 16, 1945.

After arriving back in the United States, Samuel stayed in Woodrow Wilson General Hospital for about six months during which period he married Vi Taylor. He retired for physical disability as a Major from the United States Army at Fitzsimmons General Hospital, Denver, Colorado, in 1947.

After a time of travel, Samuel and Vi purchased a small farm in 1949 in Nolesville, Tennessee. There he and his wife worked hard, built the farm and raised cattle. To earn more income, Samuel taught at a G.I. Farm School in Franklin, Tennessee, and subsequently worked for an oil company. Samuel and Vi remained active in the Methodist Church.

Vi and Samuel remained on the farm together until the 1980s when her health deteriorated. In 1994, Samuel Donald was awarded an honorary doctorate from the Divinity School of Duke University. He died on January 31, 1995, in Nashville, Tennessee. He is survived by two nephews, Danny Taylor and Robin Miller, both of Nashville.

- Memoir written by Sara L Manner, Chair, Memoirs Committee,
from information provided by the family of Samuel Donald



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Background photos courtesy of VDOT.

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