The longtime Minneapolis resident fought for civil rights and was an advocate for education.
Samuel Richardson grew up directly across the street from the city swimming pool in Longview, Texas, but he was not allowed to go in it because he was black. He had read the U.S. Constitution when he was a child and believed that it applied to him and everybody else in the United States. That strong belief set his life on a course of fighting tirelessly against injustices and for fairness, particularly in the areas of employment, education and housing.
Richardson served as the president of the Minneapolis chapter of the NAACP in the 1960s and took a delegation of 58 adults to participate in the 1963 march on Washington when the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his historic "I Have a Dream" speech.
Richardson's goal "was to have everybody able to pursue the American dream," said his wife, Virginia, of Minneapolis.
Richardson died Feb. 6 at Martin Luther Manor in Bloomington from complications from cardiac amyloidosis. He was 81.
He graduated from Womack High School in Longview and earned degrees in economics and education from Morehouse College in Atlanta, where he was a classmate of King. By the 1960s, he had settled in Minneapolis and was active in local and state chapters of the NAACP. He played a leading role in proceedings that led to the court order for Minneapolis to desegregate its schools in the early 1970s, said Matt Little, a writer for the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.
"He supported the desegregation of schools, not because he felt black students would learn better by sitting next to white students, but because they would have access to a better education," Virginia Richardson said.
Richardson served as commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Rights from 1971 to 1975, and as an education specialist with the state Department of Education from 1979 to 1997.
He was heavily involved in local politics with the Democratic Party, his wife said.
Richardson spent lots of time encouraging young people to take their education seriously, said the Rev. Roy Vanderwerf, senior pastor of Oakland United Methodist Church in south Minneapolis, where Richardson was a longtime active member.
Richardson coached youth T-ball and football teams, played volleyball and stayed in shape by doing 100 pushups a day well into his 70s, said his son, Mark, of Eden Prairie. He also liked gardening and won awards for beautifying boulevards on his street and encouraging neighbors to do the same, Virginia said. Richardson served on the board of Walker West Music Academy and the United Cerebral Palsy Association of Minnesota.
In addition to his wife and son, Richardson is survived by three daughters, Sandra Richardson-Serotoff, Deborah Richardson and Kelli Richardson, all of Minneapolis; a sister, Maplelee Reese of Houston, Texas, and two grandchildren. Services have been held.