Sam Newton: (1948- )
Born: Tifton, Georgia
Sam moved to Gifford, Florida in 1962 during his high school years. His older brother Harold, who was already living in Gifford, is considered to be one of the leaders of the Highwaymen. Harold was Sam’s first teacher. Another brother, Lemuel, was also learning to paint at around the same time. Harold encouraged Sam to do quality work and not just paint for a quick buck. Sam later painted with Willie Daniels and Livingston Roberts. Bean Backus also shared his painting skills with Sam.
As an adult, Sam lived on Avenue D in Fort Pierce for a while. After Alfred Hair died, Rodney Demps started painting with him. Rodney described Sam in those days as hyper, with a lot of talent. “He’d fry fish and paint at the same time. And his paintings were superior,” he claimed. When Sam moved to Cocoa, Sylvester Wells learned to paint landscapes by watching him work.
Taking Harold’s lead, Sam sold his work on the road. Some of his favorite places in the early days were the Ocean Spray and Minute Maid plants. Sam explained, “If people did not buy, I would just try somewhere else. I didn’t get discouraged. I just stuck with it, but I had a hard time over the years.”
A popular spot for local Highwaymen collectors around 2000 was Past & Present Interiors in Wabasso, Florida. It was a special mecca for Sam Newton fans. Sam would sometimes set up his easel and paint a landscape or two. Huge crowds would come by to watch him paint and many would purchase his work. Sam was selling well during this time. His reputation spread by word of mouth and he was gaining commissions. Clients requested backcountry scenes, especially those of marshes and lakes in Indian River County.
Sam Newton is a defiant Highwayman, insisting on being identified as an individual artist. He claims to have had nothing to do with his name being placed in the Florida Artist Hall of Fame, and he distances himself from the group. His reluctance to speak as a Highwayman goes back to the early days of the group’s naming by Jim Fitch. He continues to paint and sell his works as Sam Newton, often teaching others much in the same way he learned in his youth. He knows that practice is important. His son Tracy and daughter Samurai paint landscapes, carrying on the Sam Newton tradition.
Sam Newton Biography information: obtained from website thehighwaymentrail.com. This website is a fantastic reference to learn about the 26 Florida Highwaymen artists and their importance to Florida's history.