Virginia House honors Wilson

Published 12:16 pm Thursday, February 21, 2019

The Virginia House of Delegates presented House Resolution No. 37, which celebrates the life of the late Lt. Gen. Samuel V. Wilson, to his wife, son and a delegation from Hampden-Sydney College (H-SC) on Feb. 6, according to a college press release.

Lt. Gen. Samuel V. Wilson

Officials noted in the release that as president of Hampden-Sydney from 1992-2000, “General Sam” guided the college and mentored its students through a time of instability, ushering in a new era of growth.

Del. Chris Peace, a 1998 graduate of H-SC, read the resolution aloud in the House chamber Feb. 6, the release stated. Members present recognized the guests who sat in the galley for the proceedings; the guests included Hampden-Sydney student leaders.

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Sam Wilson’s commitment to service began at the age of 16 and continued to his passing at the age of 93, college officials cited. Continuing, they said that after hearing Churchill’s “fight on the beaches” speech on the radio, young Sam lied about his age in order to enlist in the Virginia National Guard and serve his country. Before long, he was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Army, and his service took him to the jungles of Burma as a member of the legendary Merrill’s Marauders during World War II.

The release continued to relate Wilson’s history, highlighting how he later became commander of the 6th Special Forces Group, pioneered the doctrine of counter-insurgency and led intelligence operations in Moscow as the first defense attaché to the Soviet Union. He served as deputy to the director of Central Intelligence for the intelligence community and, ultimately, as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency before retiring in 1977.

General Sam continued to serve his country by co-authoring legislation to establish the United States Special Operations Command and by offering guidance to high-level leaders in the U.S. government, both during and after his leadership of Hampden-Sydney College, officials cited.

At an evening reception in Richmond on Feb. 6 for friends of the Wilson family and the college, H-SC President Dr. Larry Stimpert saluted Gen. Wilson’s selfless and consistent commitment to leadership and service, the release stated.

Larry Stimpert

“The most fitting way for us to honor Sam Wilson would be to commit ourselves to live up to, and into, the example he set for us and to champion character development alongside intellectual growth,” Stimpert was quoted as saying in the release. “We must teach young people well, but we must also instill in them a respect for others, a commitment to integrity and a belief in human dignity, as well as an understanding that disagreements on substance should not preclude civility.”

College officials conveyed in the release that Stimpert noted the similarities between Wilson and other prominent American leaders who have recently passed away, such as President George H. W. Bush and U.S. Sen. John McCain.

“For all who raise, mentor and educate young people, the passing of such greats as our own Sam Wilson should encourage us to recommit ourselves to the qualities that made these leaders so deserving of our reverence, respect and gratitude,” Stimpert said. “He, and so many other members of the Greatest Generation, showed us that exemplary leadership rests on the bedrock of character and decency. Indeed, this is the most important lesson Sam Wilson gave to all of us who are — in one way or another — his students and his legacy.”

The release concluded by noting that House Resolution 37 was introduced by Del. Jason Miyares and passed by the House of Delegates on Feb. 2, 2018.

The resolution itself reads as follows:

“WHEREAS, Lieutenant General Samuel Vaughan Wilson, USA, Ret., a patriotic veteran of World War II who dedicated his life to serving and safeguarding the citizens of the United States through his visionary leadership in the intelligence, military, and special operations communities, died on June 10, 2017; and
“WHEREAS, a native of Rice, Samuel “Sam” Vaughan Wilson learned the value of hard work and responsibility on his family’s tobacco farm; desirous to be of service to the Commonwealth and the nation, he lied about his age and enlisted in the Virginia National Guard at 16 years old; and
“WHEREAS, Sam Wilson became a second lieutenant at the age of 18 and served as an instructor at Fort Benning, Georgia, where he taught guerrilla warfare and counter-insurgency tactics; in 1943, he was one of the first recruits to join the Office of Strategic Services, the wartime precursor to the Central Intelligence Agency; and
“WHEREAS, Sam Wilson volunteered for the 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional), the famous Merrill’s Marauders, who carried out missions deep behind enemy lines in the China-Burma-India Theater of World War II; and
“WHEREAS, after the war, Sam Wilson studied languages and worked as a liaison and courier in Soviet bloc countries before joining the Central Intelligence Agency; during this period, he continued his work on insurgency and counter-insurgency doctrine and played a key staff support role during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962; and
“WHEREAS, Sam Wilson went on to command the 6th Special Forces Group, was assistant division commander for operations of the 82nd Airborne, and was the first United States Defense Attaché assigned to the embassy in Moscow; and
“WHEREAS, in the 1970s, Sam Wilson served as Deputy to the Director of Central Intelligence for the Intelligence Community and as Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, guiding the agency through significant world events; and
“WHEREAS, in 1977, Sam Wilson retired from the United States Army and returned to his family home in Rice; he continued to serve the nation long after his retirement, co-authoring the legislation that established United States Special Operations Command and revolutionized the special operations community; and
“WHEREAS, after his return to civilian life, Sam Wilson joined the faculty of Hampden-Sydney College as a professor; he later became president of the college for eight years, founding the Wilson Center for Leadership and inspiring countless students during his distinguished tenure; and
“WHEREAS, in later life, Sam Wilson shared his calming presence and wise counsel with corporations, civic organizations, heads of the Central Intelligence Agency, military officials, and United States Presidents, using his wealth of knowledge to quietly help others achieve their fullest potential as leaders while strengthening the Commonwealth and the United States in the process; and
“WHEREAS, Sam Wilson’s military decorations included the Distinguished Service Cross, the Silver Star, the Legion of Merit, and the Bronze Star, among others; he received many other civilian awards and accolades, including multiple honorary doctorates; and
“WHEREAS, in 1992, the Virginia Cultural Laureate Foundation named Sam Wilson the Cultural Laureate for Public Service to honor his lifetime of contributions as a soldier, diplomat, leader, and scholar; and
“WHEREAS, predeceased by his first wife, Brenda, Sam Wilson will be fondly remembered and greatly missed by his wife, Virginia; his children, Samuel, Jr., Jackson, David, William, Susan, and Frances, and their families; and numerous other family members, friends, and fellow service members; now, therefore, be it
“RESOLVED, That the House of Delegates hereby note with great sadness the loss of Lieutenant General Samuel Vaughan Wilson, USA, Ret., a true member of the Greatest Generation and one of the forefathers of the American special operations community; and, be it
“RESOLVED FURTHER, That the Clerk of the House of Delegates prepare a copy of this resolution for presentation to the family of Lieutenant General Samuel Vaughan Wilson, USA, Ret., as an expression of the House of Delegates’ respect for his memory.”