Sam Robinson

Sam Robinson was the sexton of the Jamestown Memorial Church and a popular tour guide from the 1930s through 1950s. Born in Canada, Robinson was hired by Ellen Bagby, the president of the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities (APVA, now Preservation Virginia), and lived on Jamestown Island. His “mother-in-law tree” story of the marriage between James and Sarah Blair was extremely popular with visitors and was later featured on the April 1950 cover of Reader’s Digest. Robinson presented his tour for the Queen Mother in 1954, and for Queen Elizabeth I and Prince Philip during their visit for the 350th anniversary of Jamestown on October 17, 1957. Robinson would be the only African American to speak to the queen during the tour due to the strict Jim Crow segregation laws in Virginia at that time. Throughout his many years at Jamestown, Sam also guided other notable visitors, including President Franklin Roosevelt as well as King Paul and Queen Frederica of Greece.

In 2002, Jamestown Island resident Rodney Taylor authorized Archive Williamsburg to digitize a copy of a tour Sam gave in 1957. The full audio tour, including the “mother-in-law tree” story, is available online.

Black and white photograph of tour guide talking to group of visitors
Sam presenting to Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip
A man and child listen to a pointing tour guide
Sam giving a tour outside the Memorial Church