WWI Snapshot: Samuel Benjamin “Bunn” Frink 1899-1989

Samuel Benjamin “Bunn” Frink attempted to serve in WWI while underage and was honorably discharged. He later became a lawyer and was known as “The Perry Mason of Brunswick County.” Throughout his life he served his country by holding many political offices and positions, as well as serving in WWII.

NC WWI Service Card
Samuel Benjamin “Bunn” Frink was born on October 2, 1899, in Shallotte, Brunswick County, NC.

On May 1, 1917, Bunn enlisted in the US Navy in Wilmington, NC. He served for over a month until June 15, 1917, when he was declared underage and honorably discharged.

Records show another Brunswick County WWI veteran, John Newton of Bessemer City, NC, attempted to enlist at Fort Caswell and was discovered to be underage. This notation was found on Pvt Newton’s NC WWI Service Card:

“Under the provisions of the Act of Congress, approved March 2, 1929, (Public #950 – 70th Congress) in the administration of any laws conferring rights, privileges, or benefits, upon honorably discharged soldiers, their widows and dependent children, the above named soldier shall hereafter be held and considered to have been honorably discharged”

Photo source: The State Port Pilot (Southport, NC), 8 May 1935, p. 1.

Bunn was a family friend of Kathryn Kalmanson, daughter of Susie Carson, the late historian and founder of the Southport Historical Society. Susie Carson was also employed at one time by Bunn’s law firm. Kathryn shared the following memories of Bunn:

“Samuel Benjamin Frink was always known as Bunn. His legal signature and name on the letterhead of his law office was “S. Bunn Frink.” No one will recognize him by his real name. But mention the name Bunn Frink in Brunswick County and you’ll get lots of responses even now. He really had a big impact on the county in many ways. He was a man of integrity, and always a gentleman. Please check my info on this, but I believe he did not actually serve in WWI. He said, if I remember correctly, that he lied about his age in order to enlist and was caught before he went overseas. By the time he turned 18, the war had ended. He did serve in WWII, but I think it was in Coast Guard because he was too old for regular enlistment.

“Mr. Frink was an interesting person. Through his work as a lawyer with some newsworthy cases, he became known as “The Perry Mason of Brunswick County.” He was once written up in some lurid but popular crime magazine, True Detective or something like that. He also served many years in the NC State Senate.”

Kathryn shared the following photos.

Bunn was featured in this article in 1959.
Source: Craven, Charles. “Brunswick’s Senator Grew up on Water.” The News and Observer [Raleigh, NC], 07 June 1959, p. 3.

Brunswick’s Senator Grew up on Water
The two-masted schooner was beating up the broad estuary of the Cape Fear River in the face of a gale, tacking and keeling over to her scuppers. At the tiller was a 15-year old boy. In the repeated course alterings, the boy jerked the tiller with glee, the masts arcing down to an alarming degree. The vessel fairly leaped over the choppy surface.

Suddenly in a powerful gust, the schooner leaned to such an alarming angle that the racing water brimmed the rail and rushed in a torrent along the deck. It appeared certain she was going to keel over. But a halyard snapped forward, the split ends lashing out wildly. The bellying foresail collapsed, began to flap with loud reports as it slid down the foreward mast. The schooner righted.

The boy saw the captain’s head bob out of the hatch. He came forward in quick, angry strides, clinging to a rope stretched from foreward aft to the stern rail. “Damn your soul, boy!” shouted the captain, grabbing the tiller.

The two other members of the crew were now climbing from the cabin white-faced.

Never Again.
That day is still fresh in the memory of S. Bunn Frink of Brunswick County, big ex-deckhand, bookkeeper and U.S. Coast Guard officer and now a lawyer and state senator. “I never made another trip with that captain,” he recalled.

Why was he was gleefully careless with the tiller that he almost capsized the schooner that stormy day years ago?

“Hah!” shrugged Frink with a grin of fond remembrance. “A damn boy will do anything…I just wanted to see her run.”

The schooner had had a hold full of clams bound for Wilmington from Little River, S.C. She had come up the coast, there being no Intracoastal Waterway in those days. She was one of two schooners young Frink served on when he was in his teens.

“The cargo from Little River was usually country produce and naval stores, such as turpentine and resin, ” Frink said. “The return cargo was for the country people – snuff, tobacco, sugar, molasses, coffee and ‘sweet cakes’.”

Samuel Bunn Frink, 59, has a decided “Jack London” flavor about him. A country boy, who lived his early years on his father’s farm, he was lured by the sea.

After Six Weeks.
But after the schooner episode in the stormy mouth of the Cape Fear, Frink got a job weighing cotton in a Lumberton cotton mill and stayed six weeks. “That was enough for me,” he said.

A hitch in the Navy during World War I also lasted until the end of six weeks – when authorities found out he was only 16 years old. Subsequent jobs were aboard a U.S. dredge and seagoing tugs towing coal out of Norfolk to Providence, R.I., Boston and Gloucester, Mass.

But the robust young seaman saw that some book learning was going to be necessary to keep him from forever a wanderer. He had gone briefly to Mrs. Mamie Alderman’s School in Brunswick County. He returned home now and enrolled in Mott’s Business College.

From there on, his education was desultory, being interrupted by work and some adventure. He was employed for a time as bookkeeper with Tidewater Power Company and with a real estate firm in Raleigh. A lung infection disabled him for a time which was spent in the town of Brevard on advice of his doctor.

In 1926, he was refused admittance to Trinity College (now Duke University) because he had no high school diploma. However, the school authorities allowed him to sit in law classes. He left in the fall of 1929 and subsequently passed the State Bar examination and set up law practice in Southport.

In World War II, Frink served in the Coast Guard, was for a time Captain of the Port of Wilmington. He was discharged as a lieutenant.

Sen. Frink’s political career has been a hybrid affair. He has served as a clerk of Superior Court of Brunswick County, was a member of an early board created to further port development, which was dissolved when the late Kerr Scott became Governor. Under his administration the present State Ports Authority was created.

Frink has served three prior terms in the Senate – 1935, 1937, and 1951.

Has a Temper.
His colleagues look to him as a person of sound judgment and warmly human instincts. However, they know also that he possesses a sharp temper. “I have to control it,” he said in his interview. “It never helps matters.”

Sen. Frink is particularly interested these days in the establishment of State operated ferry service between his beloved Southport and Carolina Beach. He extolls the tourist attracting value of such a service and has hopes for its early accomplishment.

Senator Frink is married to the former Margaret Weathers of Fayetteville. She has a daughter by a previous marriage, Mrs. Elbert N. Herring of Raleigh. He also has children by a previous marriage: a son, Malcom, who is employed at the Sunny Point Ammunition Dump near Southport; and a daughter, Mrs. Charles A. Adams of Triangle, Va., whose husband is an Army captain and a West Point graduate.

Bunn lived over 89 years. The Brunswick Beacon published his obituary on August 31, 1989, on page 5-B.

Samuel B. “Bunn” Frink
Samuel Benjamin “Bunn” Frink, 89, of Shoreline Drive, Sunset Beach, died Aug. 23 in Grand Strand General Hospital, Myrtle Beach, S.C. He was a former state legislator and longtime practicing attorney in Brunswick County.

A graveside service was held Saturday, Aug. 26, in the Stanaland-Frink Cemetery at Sunset Beach. The Rev. Frank Ross officiated.

Born Oct. 2, 1899, he was the son of D.S. and Martha G. Frink. He was a native of Brunswick County.

He was a veteran of the U.S. Navy, serving in both World War I and World War II. He also served in the U.S. Coast Guard, and for 18 months served as captain of the Port of Wilmington. He was discharged in 1946 with the rank of senior grade lieutenant.

Frink was admitted to the North Carolina State Bar in January 1931. During his nearly 60 years in the legal profession, he was associated with most of the men engaged in the legal profession in Brunswick County. He was founder of the law firm Frink, Foy, Gainey & Yount, with offices in Shallotte and Southport. He was active in the firm on a daily basis, and was well known for his legal skill as a courtroom lawyer.

His legal career was interspersed with service during six sessions of the North Carolina General Assembly, with five of the terms in the State Senate and one term in the House of Representatives. His last legislative stint was in the Senate in 1971-72.

For many years he was a member of the board of trustees of Dosher Memorial Hospital and of the board of stewards of Trinity United Methodist Church, both in Southport. He served by governor’s appointment on the State Ports Authority. For 16 years he served as the county’s attorney and also served as attorney for the Brunswick County Board of Education. He had served on the board of directors of the Security Savings & Loan Association since 1938.

Survivors include his wife, Marguerite Weathers Frink; two daughters, Marion F. Adams of Virginia and Joanne Herring of Myrtle Beach, S.C.; four sisters, Elneta F. Cox and Sue Frink, both of Wilmington, Gertie Mooney of Supply and Frances Martin of Durham; five grandchildren and a great-grandson.

Memorials may be made to the Sunset Beach Volunteer Fire Department, Shallotte Volunteer Rescue Squad or the Calabash Volunteer Rescue Squad.

His accomplishments are displayed at his gravesite, as shown.

Source of headstone photo: Findagrave

To view this or an earlier profile or snapshot at any time, click on the veteran’s name on the WWI Brunswick County Veteran list, which is also accessible by the blue button on the top right of the webpage.

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