Skip to main content

Wilson, Samuel (Samuel Vaughan)

 Person

Lieutenant General Samuel Vaughan Wilson (September 23, 1923 – June 10, 2017), aka "General Sam", completed his active military career in the fall of 1977, having divided his service almost equally between special operations and intelligence assignments. He served as President of Hampden-Sydney College from 1992–2000 and as Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency from May 1976-August 1977; for his foundational work in doctrine for low intensity conflict, where he coined the term "counterinsurgency" (COIN); and for facilitating the drafting and passage of the Nunn-Cohen Amendment to the Goldwater-Nichols Act creating the US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) and the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict (ASD/SOLIC). He is also credited for helping to create Delta Force, the U.S. Army's premier counterterrorism unit.

As a general officer, some of his assignments included: Assistant Division Commander (Operations), 82nd Airborne Division; (First) United States Defense Attaché to the Soviet Union; Deputy to the Director of Central Intelligence for the Intelligence Community; and Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. In his post-military career, he has been a Professor of Political Science and subsequently Wheat Professor of Leadership at the Wilson Center for Leadership in the Public Interest at Hampden–Sydney. Wilson died from lung cancer on June 10, 2017.

Wilson was the son of Jasper Dennis "Cap'n Jack" (1879-1959) and Helen Vaughan Wilson (1893-1955), who were married on 1915 October 28.Helen's father was William L. Vaughan (1848-1912). Her mother was Sarah Reed (Blanton) Vaughan (1854-1914), known as the "Mistress of Pleasant Shade." She was the person who taught Robert Moton to read. Helen's grandfather was Samual Watkins Vaughan, who fought in the Confederate army and was the owner of "pleasant Shae," the location of the Robert Moton house. Samuel Watkins Vaughan (1821-1880), Sam's great grandfather, was married to Lucy Townes Lockett (1816-1876) on 1846 November 3. Lucy's father was Osborn Lockett. After the death of Lucy Lockett, Sam Vaughan married to Martha "Pattie" Perkinson, a native of Jamestown, Virginia.

Samuel Vaughan Wilson married twice. His first wife was Frances Brenda Downing. His children with Brenda were Samuel, Jr. (b. 1946), Susan Vaughan (b. 1947), Jackson Benett (b. 1952), and David Jackson (b. 1957). Branda died in June of 1987. Sam's second wife was Virginia "Susi" Howton. They married in June of 1989.