Abner ‘Sam’ Sampson, D.C. businessman, dies at 78

June 4, 2011

Abner “Sam” Sampson, a vacuum cleaner salesman who rose to own a vacuum cleaner franchise and a nightclub, Washington’s “Air-Way VIP Room,” died May 23 of bone cancer at his home in Washington. He was 78.

Mr. Sampson sold Air-Way vacuum cleaners in the District from the 1960s until 2004 and was named Air-Way Salesman of the Year more than once. He sold door-to-door for years and met his future wife on one particularly fortunate house call. In 1978, he purchased an Air-Way franchise in Washington.

In addition to thriving in the vacuum cleaner business, Mr. Sampson expanded his service to selling carpet, drapes and rental properties. In 1978, he opened the Air-Way VIP Room, a banquet hall for birthday parties, anniversary celebrations and church functions. Both the VIP room and the vacuum business closed in 2004.

Abner Sampson was born Oct. 6, 1932, in Goldsboro, N.C., to Clarence and Pearline Faulkner Sampson. He played football and basketball at Allen University in Charleston, S.C., where he earned a bachelor’s degree in biology.

After college, Mr. Sampson served in the Army for two years and played basketball for the Army’s special services division in Germany. In 1961, Mr. Sampson moved to Washington.

Mr. Sampson was for many years a member and a Sunday school teacher at the Takoma Park Baptist Church in Washington. He later joined the Spirit of Peace Baptist Church in Capitol Heights.

Mr. Sampson was an active member of his high school and college alumni associations.

Survivors include his wife of 48 years, Earline Broadnax Sampson, and four children, Bo Sampson, Mike Sampson, Yolanda Sampson and Gary Sampson, all of Washington; a sister, Clarise McLeod of Washington; and three grandchildren.