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Samuel Burton Berrong

The son of Andrew Jackson Berrong and Louisiana Allen.


Recollections Of Howard Burton & Thomas Daniel Berrong

(The Son & Grandson of Samuel Burton Berrong)

My grandfather, Sam, reported being born in a one room log building in the mountains of North Carolina.  He often spoke of watching out for the revenuers (I don't know if that was real or just hill-country tales.  The family must have moved to the Illinois farm sometime before he was 14, because he reported running away from home at age 14.  His schooling stopped at the 8th grade.  His first job was heating rivets and tossing tem to the iron workers who were building Chicago sky-scrapers.  At some point he was employed as a  railroad conductor on the North Shore Limited that ran between Chicago and Milwaukee.  He apparently had a gift for gab and inspiring and organizing fellow workers, because he was involved in the early days of a workers' union. 

At a later point he became a union employee and was assigned to a Washington DC lobbyist role.  He worked as a Washington DC lobbyist for about 20 years.  At times he took on projects directly from President Harry Truman.  I have an audio tape where he describes his role in one of these projects.  I believe that he held the position of Vice President in what I recall was named the Transit World Workers' Union.  At some point he was elected Police and Fire Commissioner for Shorewood, WI (a suburb north of Milwaukee).  He held that position for a long time, but I don't know the details.  My memory says that he retired at age 62.  His new employment then became golf.  He was a par golfer for several years.  He always had an interest in sports and often took his grandchildren to Milwaukee County Stadium to see the Braves.  

He was a very physical man, and he was not about to be pushed around.  As a young man he was written up in a Milwaukee newspaper for catching two would be robbers who tried to take the cash from the street car that he was driving at the time.  As an 85 year-old retiree in Florida, he overpowered a young man that intended to hijack his car, disarmed him, dropped him to the ground, asked a by-stander to call the police, and held the would-be hijacker there until the police arrived.   

Sam seemed to like to "live on the edge".  He was frequently trying new things and new business ventures.  Stories from wife Elsie, indicate that he was gone more than home (She would not to move from Milwaukee, while he worked in Washington DC for 20 years.), that some of his business ventures almost put them into poverty, and that on occasion, she didn't know where the next meal was coming from.  He outlived Elsie by 8 years, and he was a colorful character and loved by all that knew him, until his death in 1984.  

From my limited family knowledge, Sam Berrong was probably the most publicly recognized person in this family line.  While not having much formal education, he could read people quickly and easily relate with them.  In a short time he could enroll them in working with him and his ideas.  He was recognized at his funeral as being an advocate for the oppressed and improving the work environment for the common man.