Thomas, Samuel Benjamin
Samuel Benjamin (Abuke) Thomas (1833-1901) was a hard-working businessman who, by frugal living and shrewd investment, amassed a large fortune from which he left a substantial endowment for an agricultural college on his death.
He was born in Wellington, a village near Freetown, which was the home of many other illustrious Sierra Leoneans. Not much is known of his early life. He was educated for the Anglican ministry at Fourah Bay Institution, but turned to business, using as capital the legacy left by his father, a well-to-do businessman himself.
Contrary to the popular notion contained in some history text-books that the Krio (Creoles) of Sierra Leone scorned agriculture and were only interested in white-collar jobs, men like J. A. Songo Davies, J. C. Shorunkeh-Sawyerr, Professor J. Abayomi Cole and Samuel Thomas developed a keen interest in practical agriculture.
Where others possessed zeal and ideas on the subject, Thomas had the wealth, foresight and dedication to give practical expression to his views. When he died, he left an endowment of over £54,000 for the establishment of an agricultural college to train his countrymen not only in the liberal arts and sound Christian teaching but also in the theory and practice of agriculture. The S.B. Thomas Agricultural Academy, which was established at Mabang on the Ribi River with his money, was completed in 1912.
A plaque in his local church in Wellington commemorates his death in 1901.
Akintola J. G. Wyse
Christopher Fyfe, A History of Sierra Leone, London, 1962; Sierra Leone Weekly News.
This article was reprinted from The Encyclopaedia Africana Dictionary of African Biography (In 20 Volumes). Volume Two: Sierra Leone-Zaire. Ed. L. H. Ofosu-Appiah. New York: Reference Publications Inc., 1979. All rights reserved.