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Capt. Samuel Saxton

Captain Samuel Farlee Saxton was born on August 5, 1929 in Asheville, North Carolina to Mary Patterson and Thomas Odell. Although his father left the family, his mother, a former teacher, worked as a domestic to raise Saxton and his four younger siblings. He attended and dropped out of Stevens High School in Asheville during ninth grade in order to work full time. In 1944, he told the World War II draft board that he was eighteen when he was actually sixteen so that he could join the U.S. Navy. Saxton trained as a steward, one of the few Navy jobs open to African Americans, but served as a gunner during intense battles, including the Battle of Leyte in the Philippines in 1944 and at Iwo Jima, Japan in 1945.

At the end of World War II, Saxton left the Navy and earned his high school diploma. In 1946, he joined the U.S. Marines, training at Montford Point, a segregated facility for African Americans at Camp LeJeune, North Carolina. Rising through the ranks to become a commissioned officer, Saxton served in the Korean and Vietnam Wars. In addition to defending U.S. bases in Korea and Vietnam, he managed military prisons in Da Nang, Vietnam and at Camp Pendleton, California. After a serious car accident in 1975, Saxton retired from the Marine Corps and went on to earn his B.S. degree in criminal justice and his M.A. degree in rehabilitative counseling from the University of Maryland.

In 1975, Saxton joined the Montgomery County Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation in Maryland as a deputy director and was later appointed as the director of the department. Renowned as an innovative corrections administrator, Saxton was recruited to be the director of corrections for Prince George’s County, Maryland in 1983. During his tenure, he created several programs to improve inmates’ living conditions and to facilitate their reintegration into society. His comprehensive drug treatment program, The Awakening, gained national attention and earned a visit from President Bill Clinton in 1994. Retiring from Prince George’s County in 2000, Saxton taught courses in criminal justice at Prince George’s Community College until 2004. Throughout his career, Saxton received numerous honors for instituting prison reforms, including the American Correctional Association's E.R. Cass Correctional Achievement Award and the 1986 Austin MacCormick Award from the Correctional Education Association.

Saxton passed away on February 14, 2018.

Captain Samuel Saxton was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on November 9, 2006.

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Hill Street School

Livingstone Junior High School

Stevens Lee High School

University of Maryland

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Speakers Bureau


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Depends on Schedule

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Yes - Negotiable

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Preferred Audience: ANY


North Carolina

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Always Faithful. Always Ready.

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District of Columbia

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Captain Capt. Samuel Saxton (1929 - 2018) was the former director of corrections for Prince George's County, Maryland and a retired captain in the U.S. Marine Corps.


United States Navy

United States Marine Corps

Montgomery County (Md.). Dept. of Correction and Rehabilitation

Prince George's County Department of Corrections

Prince George's Community College

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Timing Pairs

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Capt. Samuel Saxton's interview</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Capt. Samuel Saxton lists his favorites</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Capt. Samuel Saxton describes his mother's family background</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Capt. Samuel Saxton describes the origin of his family name</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Capt. Samuel Saxton describes his mother's childhood in North Carolina</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Capt. Samuel Saxton describes his father's family background</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Capt. Samuel Saxton describes his siblings</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Capt. Samuel Saxton describes his neighborhood in Asheville, North Carolina</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Capt. Samuel Saxton recalls briefly living in Philadelphia as a child</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Capt. Samuel Saxton recalls childhood activities in Asheville, North Carolina</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Capt. Samuel Saxton describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Capt. Samuel Saxton describes his grade school experiences in Asheville</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Capt. Samuel Saxton recalls lying about his age to join the U.S. Navy</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Capt. Samuel Saxton describes serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Capt. Samuel Saxton recalls continuing his education after his enlistment</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Capt. Samuel Saxton remembers enlisting in the U.S. Marine Corps</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Capt. Samuel Saxton talks about the integration of the U.S. Marine Corps</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Capt. Samuel Saxton remembers the integration of the U.S. Marine Corps</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Capt. Samuel Saxton recalls serving as a U.S. Marine in the Korean War</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Capt. Samuel Saxton describes the military police during the Vietnam War</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Capt. Samuel Saxton recalls his U.S. military service in the mid-1950s</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Capt. Samuel Saxton remembers his marriage to Sylvia Truslow Saxton</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Capt. Samuel Saxton describes his assignments in the Vietnam War, pt. 1</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Capt. Samuel Saxton describes his assignments in the Vietnam War, pt. 2</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Capt. Samuel Saxton recalls serving at Camp Pendleton after the Vietnam War</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Capt. Samuel Saxton recalls serving at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Capt. Samuel Saxton recalls commanding the Motor Transport Maintenance Company in Okinawa</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Capt. Samuel Saxton talks about how he became a civilian corrections officer</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Capt. Samuel Saxton recalls becoming the director of Prince George's County Detention Center</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Capt. Samuel Saxton describes his initiatives at Prince George's County Detention Center</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Capt. Samuel Saxton describes his political opponents in Maryland</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Capt. Samuel Saxton describes his awards for his work in corrections</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Capt. Samuel Saxton talks about his techniques as a corrections officer</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Capt. Samuel Saxton talks about his retirement from correctional work</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Capt. Samuel Saxton describes the Montford Point Marine Association, Inc.</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Capt. Samuel Saxton reflects upon his life</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Capt. Samuel Saxton describes how he would like to be remembered</a>







Capt. Samuel Saxton remembers enlisting in the U.S. Marine Corps
Capt. Samuel Saxton describes his initiatives at Prince George's County Detention Center
When you came back from your first tour of duty, left Okinawa [Okinawa Island, Japan], came back to the high school [Stephens-Lee High School, Asheville, North Carolina], how was your mother [Mary Lou Patterson] doing at that point?$$Mother was very sickly at the time and I think that's one of the reasons why I went back into the [U.S.] military, is that the need was still there, and I didn't have time to go for me. I had to think of them, again, so that's what I did. I just went back in, made my allotments back out and all of that. By this time, I was in the [U.S.] Marine Corps and I was able to excel pretty quick in the corps.$$Now why did you select the Marine Corps?$$I think that I have always had that inclination to, I didn't like the [U.S.] Navy, you know, so I had been in what was called, the amphibious Navy. I was in the 3rd Amphibious Corps [III Marine Expeditionary Force] which spent a lot of time with Marines and I guess I got the idea since I've always been with them, you know, why don't I. So I ended up with the Marine Corps, within a short time I was already a squad leader.$$Where did you start that service and training? Where, what base, what camp?$$I started that in Okinawa. They, we were so short of troops that if you were already combat trained, you could switch over from the Navy to the Marine Corps, and I jumped at the opportunity because that meant no longer was I a steward, I could go over to the other, even though I was carrying the designation, I sure as hell wasn't fighting like a steward out there, you know, in Okinawa.$$The pay was a lot better?$$It wasn't the pay so much with me, it's that I got my pride back.$Didn't you eventually close this facility [Prince George's County Detention Center, Upper Marlboro, Maryland] and build a new one?$$Yes. While cleaning up one, we had to build toward the other, okay, and the way that occurred is that I had to go before public forums and convince them that they really needed to do something different. It was a hard sell. They knew my reputation, they knew where I was trying to go. Well, the big thing is, is that I learned the secret of how to deal with people who are public figures. Don't necessarily talk to them, I went to the ladies' garden clubs, and wherever they had large numbers of ladies that were associated with the decision makers, and tried to persuade them on what the needs were, and it worked because so many of the so-called politicians were finding it very difficult to stay at home without supporting where we were trying to go, and that was one of the strategies that I used. The bottom line was this, the county exec knew that this place was a political ambush for him, he wanted it changed. A lot of other folks knew that it needed to be changed and in order to convince them to accept the new generation jail, I took my worst critics, and I challenged them to go with me to California. I carried them out to California, it was six of them, and I made sure that I was sitting with the worst of the worst. Kept 'em up near the window and I talked that rascal all the way out to California. When we got out to California, we went to a new generation jail and let them walk through. When they came back, they said, "There will only be one built in Prince George's [Prince George's County, Maryland]," you know, in Montgomery County [Maryland], and they let me build that place. It was a new generation jail in every sense of the word.$$When was that completed?$$Oh, when was that?$$Eighty-seven [1987] roughly?$$Yeah, '87 [1987] roughly. It was not old wine, new bottle. It was a new process, you know. There has not been a riot in that place, there's been nobody raped, it's the way we designed the place. We designed it so it enhances management, okay. It's not only that but it's easy to clean, it's, it's as clean as a hospital, it's even today. We did a lot of things to enhance the thing for the staff themselves, and when the new guys, or new inmates come in, there are two orientations that go on in Prince George's, even today, the one that we give 'em and the one that the inmates give and the one that the inmates gives is far more sophisticated than ours because here's what it basically says, that whatever you did at Lorton [Lorton Reformatory, Lorton, Virginia], you can't do it here, that these people are in charge, they know what they're doing, it's a tight ship, and the best thing you can do is to spend time understanding your problems, and they'll help you with it. I did not try to enforce rehabilitation on anyone, I know better than that, but I do know this. I can limit your options for those things that you know are wrong, I can make it easier for you to follow the right path, and I can stay steady, and if you want to call that rehabilitation, a whole lot of folks know they're wrong and want to change, so you make it easier for 'em to change. If you don't want to change, then we'll deal with you another way. One of the things that people will tell you is don't take what I call the bad news bears and put 'em all in the, in the same bucket, but that's exactly what I did. If you put 'em all in one housing area and they are the people that prey on others, the people they've got to prey on is each other, and then this other group you can work with 'em. I did a lot of study on how to classify and handle that kind of a group and it has worked like a charm. We knocked our recidivism rate down by thirty points in two years. We not only did that, but that place has never lost a lawsuit of any consequence. I think the only one that I ever lost cost me two bucks.