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Oral Histories

The SFA oral history program documents life stories from the American South. Collecting these stories, we honor the people whose labor defines the region. If you would like to contribute to SFA’s oral history collections, please send your ideas for oral history along with your CV or Resume and a portfolio of prior oral history work to

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Sam Edwards III

S. Wallace Edwards & Sons

It started on a ferry route running between Jamestown and Surry, Virginia in 1925. One of the stops was a newly restored tourist destination: Colonial Williamsburg. Sam Edwards I, the boat’s captain, began selling ham sandwiches to passengers using the same ham he learned to cure on his family’s farm. One year later he started his business and sold hams to country stores and restaurants. His son, Sam II, eventually took over and transitioned the curing process from ambient to temperature-controlled rooms, using observations and data from his father’s methods. He brought his then-teenage son, Sam III, to work simply because the business needed an extra body. After earning a business degree, Sam III aspired to work on Wall Street. Unfortunately it was the late 1970s, and the economy took a nosedive. His plan was to work for the family business for a short while until he could apply to graduate school, but he stayed on. He’s now the company’s president and curemaster, and has returned full-circle to some of his grandfather’s traditions, like feeding hogs Virginia peanuts. For almost ninety years, the family’s sense of sight, smell, and taste has maintained the consistent quality and flavor of an Edwards ham.

This photograph of (L-R) Sam, Donna, Vonnie, and Wallace Edwards was recovered from the January 2016 fire at Edwards Smokehouse. Photograph courtesy of Edwards Virginia Smokehouse.

Date of interview:

Sara Wood

Sara Wood

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The Southern Foodways Alliance drives a more progressive future by leading conversations that challenge existing constructs, shape perspectives, and foster meaningful discussions. We reconsider the past with research, scrutiny, and documentation.


Alex Raij Txikito

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