In Memoriam: retired Deacon Sam Baker

JACKSON – Deacon Sam Milton Baker, 94, died Sunday, May 15, at home after having suffered a stroke. Funeral services were held Saturday, May 21, at the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle.
Deacon Baker was born Dec. 13, 1921. He was raised by two loving and doting parents, Sam and Pearl Baker. Deacon Baker spent most of his developmental years living and attending church in South Jackson.
He enrolled in the business program at Tougaloo College in 1940, but had to take a break to answer the call to military service during World War II. He served overseas in the European Theater of Operations earning the rank of Technical Sargent.
During his enrollment at Tougaloo, he met and immediately fell in love with Barbara Justine Willis, who became his wife of 71 years. Prior to their marriage on Aug. 18, 1942, he converted to Catholicism. The couple had four children, Carlyle (deceased), Sandra, Rhenolda and George. Upon his discharge from the military, he worked for the Illinois Central Railroad. In 1952, he started working with the U.S. Postal Service where he served for 13 years as a letter carrier.
He was the first African-American to serve as district director of the Small Business Administration (SBA) from 1966 to 1978. During this period, he received numerous awards including Man of the Year by the National Business League in 1974. He retired, the first time from SBA in 1978. That same year he was appointed vice president of commercial lending at First National Bank of Jackson. He retired a second time to return to SBA as director of the Mississippi District of Southeastern Region. In 1991, Deacon began serving on the advisory board at St. Dominic-Jackson Memorial Hospital and was later appointed to its Board of Directors.
He was ordained a permanent deacon at the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle on July 11, 1982, serving at both Holy Ghost and the Cathedral. He retired from active ministry in 2008.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Barbara Willis Baker; his parents, Sam and Pearl Baker; one son, Carlyle J. Baker; one grandson, Mario Baker. He is survived by his daughter, Sandra Baker of Stone Mountain, Ga.; two sons, Rhenolda (Barbara) of Jackson; and George (Nita) Baker of McKinney, Tex.; daughters-in-law Sarah Elizabeth Baker of Carrolton, Tex., and Mary Baker of Albuquerque, NM; niece, Lula B. Henry of Chicago, Ill.; a devoted grandson, Rodric, who served as his caregiver; thirteen grandchildren, numerous great grandchildren and a host of beloved nieces, nephews, cousins, relatives, friends and his Holy Ghost Church family.