The Delta Grassroots Caucus (DGC) is a broad coalition of grassroots leaders in the eight-state Delta region. DGC is also a founding partner of the Economic Equality Caucus,
which advocates for economic equality across the USA.

A Tribute to the Late Sam Brannum, a True-Blue Trooper for the Delta--December 26, 2022

Posted on December 26, 2022 at 02:33 PM

Our region has lost a dedicated and dynamic leader with the passing of Sam Brannum, a senior Congressional aide who fought for economic progress and social justice in the First District of Arkansas, a US Navy veteran who served in Vietnam, and a consultant providing services for individuals, businesses and agencies seeking assistance with federal loan programs.

Sam Brannum died on Dec. 9, 2022 at John McClellan Memorial Veterans Hospital in Little Rock. He was truly a compassionate, amiable and generous soul who is mourned by countless friends in Arkansas, Washington, DC and elsewhere.

Sam was born in 1951 in the heartland Delta community of Osceola, Arkansas. After graduating from Jonesboro AR High School in 1969, he served in the US Navy on two combat tours to Vietnam in what he called “the smallest destroyer in the US Navy.” In serving his country he contracted the chemical Agent Orange, with the inevitable destructive damage to his health over the years. He waged a courageous battle against his health issues and maintained his sense of humor and strength for his family and friends until the end.

In later years he often emphasized to everyone how grateful he was when the US finally pulled out of Vietnam.

After his military service, he earned a degree in Business and Economics from Arkansas State University and served as a US Census Regional Coordinator in northeast Arkansas for the 1980 census.

Sam is best known to the general public for his stalwart and effective service as senior Congressional aide for Congressman Bill Alexander of the First District of Arkansas.

Congressman Alexander was Chief Deputy Majority Whip and a member of the powerful Appropriations Committee, and Sam was his point man for bringing water projects, job creation, transportation and other infrastructure improvements, public safety, and other beneficial gains for the economic development and quality of life for the people of east Arkansas, one of the most economically distressed areas in the country.

This may be difficult to understand today, but in that era large numbers of people in Arkansas did not have safe drinking water. Due to the tireless efforts of Rep. Alexander and Sam Brannum, literally thousands of Arkansans gained access to safe drinking water for the first time in their lives.

Among the infrastructure projects Sam played a key role in was the Grand Prairie water district, the largest water project in America. People in Arkansas continue to benefit from these projects today.

These infrastructure and quality of life initiatives provided real help in the lives of many lower income and minority people in Arkansas who badly needed them. Far from being “pork barrel” projects as some naysayers on the right claimed, the works Sam and his boss engineered were a classic example of the potential for positive governmental impact in the lives of everyday citizens.

Those enlightened initiatives helped then and now many people who may never have heard of Sam Brannum’s name. But he wasn’t doing it for recognition, but to help the people of his homeland.

Delta Caucus Director Lee Powell served on Alexander’s Washington, DC staff and worked with Sam Brannum for many years.

There were many memories of those years, but what stands out most in Powell’s mind was the courageous, creative and ultimately successful effort in Congressman Alexander’s 1990 Democratic primary election against Mike Gibson, a talented, very conservative lawyer from Osceola. Powell took a leave of absence from his government job in DC to work on the campaign.

The 1990 First District primary between Alexander and Gibson was one of the great battle royales in the history of Arkansas—and American—politics.

Alexander faced many opponents over his 24 years in the US House of Representatives, but none more formidable than Gibson, an engaging speaker, a lawyer like Alexander from the heartland Delta community of Osceola, and although a Democrat, someone who appealed to the more hard-core right wing sentiments of some voters in Arkansas. Early on Gibson was making impressive showings in polls, but Alexander’s team made a huge comeback and returned him to Congress.

Powell remembers a campaign staff meeting where Alexander’s campaign manager, the distinguished northeast Arkansas attorney H. T. Moore, was grimly realistic and told the group that “We know we’re in trouble.” That was when Sam and the team became energized and went to work.

There were some advisers who thought the best strategy for Alexander was to portray the congressman as a “warm and fuzzy” personality. Brannum and Powell were convinced that this would never work; Ronald Reagan might win an election on his personality, but Alexander would win based on the substance of his accomplishments for infrastructure, civil rights, job creation, and quality of life for his constituents.

Brannum and Powell went to work with an intensive communications and political strategy documenting the many substantive projects Alexander had brought to his district. In local media and campaign communications in every county of the district, the facts of how many jobs, water and sewer projects, transportation improvements, federal aid to education, and other benefits for the people of the district.

The strategy began to pay off, and the contrast between Gibson’s negative campaigning against Alexander as allegedly an “out of touch congressman who was focused on the Washington, DC culture” and the substantive record of accomplishments by Alexander began turning the tide in favor of the no-nonsense incumbent.

Powell remembers vividly how energetic and up-beat Sam Brannum remained in the teeth of this stressful campaign. At stake was the career of a moderately progressive, national and local leader of Democrats, against a staunchly conservative Democrat who was not far from the positions of the Republican Party.

“We were driving through rural east Arkansas one day in the middle of the campaign, and Sam seemed as energetic and amiable as ever,” Powell recalls. “His amiability was even rubbing off on me and somehow I was enjoying the intensity of the campaign in spite of the electric and unceasing pressure to pull off the comeback. I asked Sam how in the world he stayed so positive when many people at the time were predicting an Alexander loss,” Powell said.

Sam replied, “Well, it’s hard as hell, but we might as well find a way to enjoy it while it lasts.” Powell didn’t know whether he was crazy, blowing smoke to put the best face on a dire situation, poorly informed, or courageous. He decided to be charitable and say he was both crazy and courageous.

After his service in Congress ended, Sam founded his consulting firm, Capital Ventures, Inc., providing services for many agencies, businesses and individuals who needed help in gaining access to federal loan programs. He and his devoted wife Lisa divided their time between homes in Little Rock, Jonesboro and Mountain View, Arkansas.

He was an avid hunter and fisherman, and once went duck hunting with President Bill Clinton and a few others. He loved the natural beauty and majestic sights along the White River and many other outdoor attractions in the vast Delta lands of the First District.

Today, let’s celebrate and remember the life and legacy of Sam Brannum.

A great way to honor his memory would be to make contributions to two causes that he supported in particular: the Arkansas Food Bank ( and Disabled American Veterans

Rest in peace, good ol’ Sam.

Lee Powell, Executive Director, Delta Grassroots Caucus (202) 360-6347