S.M.L. Endeley was born on June 9, 1923 to Chief Mathias Lifafa Endeley, Chief of Buea from 1915-1925, and Maria Mojoko Litombe of Soppo Wonganga in Buea.
He began his education in the German Basel vernacular Kindergarten in Soppo Wonganga where he was a pupil from 1929-31. Teaching was done in Bakweri and Duala. In 1932 he was admitted into Government School Buea where he obtained his First School Leaving Certificate in 1939.
In 1940, he passed the competitive entrance into the Government College Umuahia in Eastern Nigeria. During the Second World War, the college was closed down and converted into an internment camp for German war prisoners. As a result, the students were transferred to Hope Waddell Training Institute in Calabar. Sam Endeley left Hope Waddell at age 22 after passing the Cambridge School Certificate.
In 1946 SML Endeley passed the highly competitive examinations into the prestigious Nigeria School of Pharmacy in Yaba, Lagos, where he obtained a Pharmaceutical Chemist and Druggist diploma with a distinction in Forensic Pharmacy.
From 1950 to 1957, he worked as a government pharmacist in Lagos and Port Harcourt in Nigeria, and Tiko Bota, Victoria and Kumba in the Southern Cameroons.
In 1953 SML Endeley married Glady Silo Steane, an Accounts Clerk with the Cameroon Development Corporation (CDC).
The late 1950s was a period of socio-political effervescence in Southern Cameroons, and Sam Endeley soon lost his passion for pharmacy, turning his attention to law, a profession through which he believed he would contribute more to the development of Southern Cameroons.
In 1956 he was admitted into the University of Leeds where he obtained a diploma in Sociology. In 1957 he sought and gained admission into the Middle Temple Inn of Court where he read law at the Inns of Court School of Law in London. In 1959, he passed the final examination for the Barrister-at-law degree and was called to the English Bar in January 1960. He returned to Cameroon in April of that same year when he got called to the Nigerian Bar.
Between 1960 and 1966 he ran his bustling and lucrative private practice, Lifafa Chambers, located around the Buea town market. This was a period when Nigerian lawyers dominated the legal field in the territory, however, Sam Endeley was able to rise and stay at the top.
A young Sam Endeley with Lawyers Fred Eko and Koffi Mensah, the first generation of British-trained Southern Cameroons lawyers. Picture courtesy of Cameroon Census forum/Henry Monono
During this period, Sam Endeley became involved in the major social and political issues of his time. In the 1950s and 60s, he played a pivotal role in setting up the Bakweri Co-operative Union of Farmers (BCUF) and the Bakweri Land Committee (BLC) which sought to reclaim Bakweri ancestral land wrested by the Germans in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He was also active in the plebiscite campaign leading up to the unification of the British and French Cameroons, and was even selected to address the UN Trusteeship Council in 1961. He was also part of the Southern Cameroons delegation to the Foumban constitutional conference of that same year.
Arriving at the Foumban conference. From left to right, PM Kemcha, EML Endeley, SML Endeley and legnedary photographer, E. Mbwaye. Southern Cameroons archives.
He later became a prominent member of both the CNU (Cameroon National Union) and the CPDM (Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement).
In 1966, SML Endeley made the switch from private practice to the bench for what turned out to be a lengthy and luminous legal career.
In 1966 he was appointed Judge of the High Court of West Cameroon and President of the West Cameroon Bench of the Federal Court of Justice.
In 1968, he became an Appeals Judge of the Full Bench of the Federal Court of Justice Yaoundé, and a year later, he was appointed member of the Higher Judicial Council.
In 1970, he became Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of West Cameroon.
When the Cameroon federation was dissolved in 1972, SML Endeley moved to Yaoundé where he became Vice President of the Supreme Court of the United Republic of Cameroon. In 1973 he was appointed President of the Administrative Bench of the Supreme Court. He later returned to Buea as President of the South-West Court of Appeal.
West Cameroon: Justice Endeley with J.C Ngoh (Federal Inspector of Administration for West Cameroon,) and Mr Ngwa, SDO Fako Division. Source: Cameroon Census forum/Gervase Ndoko.
Throughout his legal career, SML Endeley was a member of every law harmonization and law revision commission set up by the government of Cameroon – a telling pointer at how his legal opinions were valued by the state and by his peers. He was also a prominent member of the Cameroon-Nigeria Joint border Commission and was a member of the Cameroonian legal team in the land and maritime border dispute between Cameroon and Nigeria which culminated in the award of the Bakassi peninsular to Cameroon by the Internatioanl Court of Justice.
Between 1982 and 1990, SML Endeley served as Chairman of the Cameroon Development Corporation (CDC).
Justice SML Endeley was as crowned Paramount Chief of Buea in 1990 in succession of his uncle Gervacius Mbella Endeley who reigned as District Head and Chief of Buea from 1925 to 1982.
By Dibussi Tande with notes from Njeuma, Martin Zachary. (2000). Valiant soldiers from Fako: An extract from a "Who's who in Bakweriland". Yaoundé́, Cameroon: n.p.