Samuel B. Churchill’s grandfather, Armistead Churchill, was a pioneer settler from Virginia who married Elizabeth Blackwell on February 14, 1761, and settled in Kentucky. His father, Samuel Churchill, married Abigail Oldham, the daughter of Colonel William Oldham, in Louisville May 19, 1803, in Louisville. Samuel B. was born at Spring Grove near Louisville on December 6, 1812.
He received the degree of Bachelor of Laws from St. Joseph’s College in Bardstown in 1831 and from Transylvania in 1833. He also received a Master of Arts degree from St. Joseph’s in 1833. In 1835, he moved to St. Louis, Missouri, where his sister Mrs. Meriwether Lewis Clark lived, to practice law. He was editor of the "St. Louis Bulletin", a Whig newspaper. In 1837, he served in the Missouri legislature; he also served as postmaster of St. Louis and then Superintendent of Postal Affairs of Missouri.
He joined the Democratic Party in the early 1850s in protest of Know-Nothing influence on the Whigs. He was elected to the Missouri State Senate in 1858 and was a delegate to the 1860 Democratic National Convention in Charleston, South Carolina, where he supported James Guthrie.
Churchill sought to help reconcile the North and the South during the secession crisis, but his opposition to Lincoln’s policies led to his arrest; in 1863 he was given permission by Union authorities to return to Kentucky.
He settled in Frankfort where he became a major figure in the Democratic Party. At the Democratic State Convention in Louisville in 1866, he helped secure the gubernatorial nomination of John L. Helm. Helm was elected in 1867 and appointed Churchill Secretary of State, a post he held until 1871 under John White Stevenson after Helm’s death in September 1867.
Churchill then returned to private life until 1879 when he agreed to serve again briefly as Secretary of State (1879-80) while newly elected Governor Luke P. Blackburn organized his administration.
In 1836, Churchill married Amelia Walker in St. Louis. The couple had three sons, Samuel B. Churchill Jr., William Christy Churchill, and Charles A. Churchill. Samuel B. Churchill was an active, lifelong member of the Episcopal Church.
In 1871, Churchill moved back to Louisville where he remained until his death of “brain congestion” on May 14, 1890. He is buried in Louisville’s Cave Hill Cemetery. He was survived by his wife, three sons, and two sisters.
J. Stoddard Johnston, ed., "A Memorial History of Louisville, Vol. I," (1896), pgs 383-86;
"Marriage Records of St. Louis and St. Louis, Missouri, 1806-1965," (microfilm);
Obituary, "Louisville Courier-Journal," May 15, 1890;
Edna Talbott Whitley, "Ante Bellum Portraiture," (Paris, Ky., 1956), pg 346.