17. Sir William Frederick “Fred” Samson (1892-1974), “Mr Fremantle”
The grandson of Lionel Samson (see Location 16), Frederick wanted to be an engineer rather than entering the family business. In 1913 he was amongst the first students to enrol at the University of Western Australia, but left his studies the following year to join the Australian Imperial Force. Although he was a crack shot, he was too short to be accepted. Instead, he went to work for the Metropolitan Water Supply. He later set up his own real estate agency in 1930 and prospered.
Fred Samson campaigned for secession and in 1936 joined the Fremantle City Council. His roots in Fremantle local government were strong. Both his uncle, William Frederick, and his father, Michael, had been mayors of Fremantle.
Samson lived in the family’s mansion “Samson House” in Ellen Street (which still stands today), surrounded by Fremantle memorabilia. He loved the movies and built his own small theatre in his house using seats salvaged from the last Fremantle tram. During 37 years on the council – 21 of these as Fremantle’s longest-serving mayor from 1951 to 1972 – the portly, talkative, goodnatured Samson appeared everywhere around Fremantle. In fact, he was dubbed “Mr Fremantle”. He was knighted in 1962.
He wanted industrial progress in Fremantle but he also lobbied to protect historic buildings such as the Round House and the convict-built Lunatic Asylum. He regarded the Fremantle City Council development of the industrial area of O’Connor as a major achievement.