Remembering Mr. Sam Friedman

“May my life be like a great hospitable tree, and may weary wanderers find in me a rest.”
~ John Henry Jowett

Samuel James “Sam” Friedman was born in Shreveport, Louisiana on January 4, 1937, and died peacefully in his sleep in Glenville, North Carolina on July 2, 2023, at a remarkably youthful 86.

He was preceded in death by his son, Kerry Friedman; his great-granddaughter, Annaley Ratliff; and his parents, Elizabeth H. and Sylvan N. Friedman.

He is survived by his wife, Edwina Bagwell Friedman; his children, Elizabeth Edwards (and husband Stephen) and Greg Friedman (and wife Hanna); his grandchildren, Erin Ratliff, James Lee Friedman, Ian Edwards, and Ava Edwards; and his great-granddaughter, Audrey Ratliff.

Sam showed an early interest in agriculture and animal husbandry and in high school proudly served as National FFA President. Upon his graduation from Natchitoches High in 1954, he attended LSU where he earned a bachelor’s degree in animal science. He continued his studies at Louisiana State University Law School (now Paul M. Hebert Law Center) and obtained his Juris Doctor in 1961. After graduation, he served for two years in the army and was discharged with the rank of Captain. He returned to Natchitoches and entered into private law practice.

In 1973, he left his law partnership to form Safari Management, a hotel development and management company. This firm started with the acquisition of the Holiday Inn-Brownwood, TX. Next, he and his partners built the Holiday Inn-Natchitoches, and they soon owned and/or operated more than 20 Holiday Inns, a Hilton, and 3 Residence Inns. He was elected to the Board of Directors and served as President of the International Association of Holiday Inns, Inc., the franchise organization of Holiday Inn owners.

In 1977, he became the principal shareholder and president of Traber Agency, a general insurance agency corporation in Natchitoches. He sold the agency to the Bank of Montgomery in 2016.

In 1979, Sam acquired property in Clay County, TX, and organized Lone Star Hereford Ranch, one of the premier Hereford cattle operations in the United States. He operated it until he sold it in 1990.

In 1989, he was honored to be elected to the Board of Directors of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry.

Sam valued his ties to LSU and was a zealous Tiger fan all his life. He continued to support his alma mater after graduation by being actively involved in the Alumni Association and heading the fund drive for many years in Natchitoches Parish. He was a member of the Louisiana State University Foundation, and in 1984 he was appointed to a six-year term on the Louisiana State University Board of Supervisors, serving as Chairman for the 1986/87 school year. In 2000, he worked extensively with the LSU Alumni Association to develop Lod Cook Hotel on campus that still operates successfully today.

In the ‘80s, Sam realized that the hotel industry was changing, and he decided to stay ahead of the curve. In 1988, he divested himself of his roadside Holiday Inns and formed a new company, Dimension Development, with the mission of developing primarily extended-stay, suite hotels. He first focused on Homewood Suites, an emerging conceptual hotel still in development, and he participated in establishing the design and operating standards for the brand. He subsequently served as a founding member and Chairman of the Homewood Suites by Hilton Franchise Advisory Council for 17 years until he retired as Chair Emeritus.

Through the years, the company also acquired full-service and luxury hotels. Today Dimension operates 80 hotels in 15 states. The thriving company recently held a leadership conference in New Orleans that coincided with Sam’s 50th anniversary in the hotel business. Sam was feted with an evening of tributes that began with a second line and culminated at a dinner at Galatoire’s with family, friends, and past and present business associates toasting Sam’s accomplishments and contributions to the hospitality industry and his vision in shaping the all-suite hotel market.

Sam viewed his time on earth as a great adventure and life a wilderness to be explored. He loved mountains and lakes, salt water and deep-sea fishing, fine wine, and sparkling conversation, and he was a connoisseur of anything culinary-related. He was in his element when he was entertaining, and he excelled at it. He was the consummate host, bon vivant, and good friend. With his charisma and an unparalleled gift of storytelling, he worked a room, much to the delight of everyone in it. It has been said that if you choose your passion as your job, you will never work a day in your life. When Sam found the hotel business, he discovered his passion and spent his personal and professional life doing what came naturally to him, offering hospitality and respite to family, friends, and strangers.

Funeral services are under the direction of Blanchard-St. Denis Funeral Home. Visitation will be at the Natchitoches Events Center Thursday, July 6, from 5:00 until 8:00. The funeral will take place at the Events Center Friday, July 7, at 11:30, with Rabbi Judy Ginsburgh officiating. Burial will be at Memory Lawn Cemetery. A reception at the Events Center will follow the service.

Pallbearers will be Mike Berman, Calvin Braxton, Mike Cahn, Kevin Dunn, Paul Harden, and Bobby Mancil.

Honorary pallbearers will be Ed DeSousa, Jeff Fisher, Fred Flippin, Ed Horton, Jack Guenther, Allan Rose, and Lovan Thomas.

Sam’s kindness, generosity, and hospitable nature were not limited to people. He was also an animal lover and advocate and, through the years, made room in his home and his life for countless dogs, cats, birds, and various species of wildlife. Recently, Edwina and Sam saw a need for a shelter and pet adoption center to serve Natchitoches Parish and donated land to the animal rescue group, Friends All United for Natchitoches Animals (FAUNA), to expedite the project. He was excited about it and immersed in fundraising ideas to build the facility. Those who wish to honor Sam’s memory may do so by donating to FAUNA Shelter Construction Fund, P.O. Box 2552, Natchitoches, LA 71457, or to a cause of their choice.