Sampson county was formed in 1784 from Duplin County. It was named for John Sampson, who was the first register of deeds of Duplin County and the first mayor of Wilmington, North Carolina.
Sampson County is the second largest county, in land area, in North Carolina. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 947 square miles (2,454 km²), of which, 945 square miles (2,449 km²) of it is land and 2 square miles (5 km²) of it (0.21%) is water. The county is drained by the Black and South Rivers, as well as Six Run Creek.
As of the census of 2000, there were 60,161 people, 22,273 households, and 16,214 families residing in the county. The population density was 64 people per square mile (25/km²). There were 25,142 housing units at an average density of 27 per square mile (10/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 59.76% White, 29.95% Black or African American, 1.81% Native American, 0.31% Asian, 0.09% Pacific Islander, 6.95% from other races, and 1.13% from two or more races. 10.77% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 22,273 households out of which 33.40% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 53.60% were married couples living together, 14.30% had a female householder with no husband present, and 27.20% were non-families. 23.70% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.20% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.64 and the average family size was 3.09.