Sampson County

About

Sampson County was originally formed in 1784 out of Duplin County, with land from Wayne and New Hanover counties annexed in later. The county is the state’s second largest in area at 945 square miles (over 604k acres) and ranks first in farmland with more than 218,000 acres and over 3,000 farms.

The county seat of Clinton was incorporated in 1852 and named for Richard Clinton, one of the state’s first members of the House of Commons, who was instrumental in the passage of the act establishing the county. Clinton asked that the county be named after John Sampson, Duplin County’s first register of deeds, later the mayor of Wilmington and believed to be Richard Clinton’s stepfather.

Sampson’s economy was founded upon agriculture and continues to be to this day, with more than half of the county’s workforce tied to agriculture. Smithfield and Prestage Farms, both located in Clinton, rank as the two largest private employers in the county. In 2021, the county came in second statewide in total cash receipts from livestock and crops at over $1.2 billion. In addition to being the state’s top producer for turkeys and sweet potatoes, the county is also the state’s top producer of vegetables, fruits, and nuts, and ranks behind Duplin in hogs at 1.7 million.

The county is also home to the Coharie Indian Tribe, recognized by the state of North Carolina in 1971, and descendants of the aboriginal Neusiok Indian Tribe. The Coharie have lived along the Little Coharie River in Sampson and Harnett counties since 1730. Sampson became the political center for the Tribe, where they established their own school system. Since 1961, the Coharie have held an annual powwow to raise funds for the tribe’s activities.

If the county’s economy has historically been rooted in agriculture, so too has its politics. Marion Butler, considered the architect of Fusion politics, which formed a coalition of Republicans and Populists made up predominantly of farmers and black voters in the 1890s, hailed from Sampson County. First elected to the state Senate in 1890, Butler was a champion for farmers and agriculture. When Leonidas Polk, the state’s first commissioner of agriculture, died in 1892, Butler was elected president of the National Farmers’ Alliance.

Under Butler, Sampson County was a leading center for the Populist Party. While the Populists and Republicans never truly fused their platforms as the name Fusion politics might suggest, they worked together to unseat the Democrats. During the 1894 election, Fusion candidates swept elections from the top of the ballot down. In this election, Butler was elected to the US Senate. In 1896, the Fusion movement delivered a Republican governor in Daniel Russell.

Sampson’s populist roots made the county a regional outlier for much of the first half of the 20th century. The county favored Republicans when neighboring counties were aligning with the Democratic Southern bloc. Today, the county favors Republicans and is trending even further to the right. In 2012, Mitt Romney won the county by 10 points. Donald Trump carried the county in both 2016 and 2020 by more than 16 and 23 points, respectively. Ted Budd won the county by more than 30 points in the 2022 US Senate race.

Geography

Elected Officials

County Data