Richard A. "Dick" Sampson

Richard A. "Dick" Sampson was a senior security executive with more than 20 years experience in managing comprehensive domestic and international security programs for government and industry. He directed the activities of Central Intelligence Agency, Department of Defense, and commercial security organizations of up to 320 professionals and support staff. During the course of his career, he assured security compliance on compartmentalized programs involving 53 U.S. government contractors, established security strategy and implemented operational plans for major intelligence collection systems; and managed an air base staffed by military, civilian, and contractor employees in support of national intelligence programs.

Sampson was born in 1927. He graduated from Michigan State University in 1951 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Police Administration. He joined the CIA and for the next 13 years worked as a Special Agent, Inspector, and Security Officer attached to the Security Services Division, Office of the Secretary of Defense, during assignments in Chicago, Tokyo, Taipei, Washington, and Williamsburg. During this time, he conducted in-depth inspections of security programs at more than 50 domestic and foreign locations. Next, he took an extended TDY (temporary duty) assignment on the U.S. ambassador's staff at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

In 1964, Sampson was assigned to the Services and Support Group, USAF Headquarters Command at Bolling Air Force Base, D.C., where he worked with Joe Murphy and Herb Saunders to handle project security for the IDEALIST (U-2), OXCART (A-12), and SENIOR CROWN (SR-71) programs. Among other accomplishments, they developed a 48-hour preliminary background investigation that streamlined the process of screening new employees without unnecessarily slowing work on high-priority programs.

In order to reduce travel costs and bureaucracy, Sampson suggested setting up a Los Angeles based office for the Services and Support Group. His boss, William Kotapish passed the recommendation to Col. Jack Ledford, director of the Office of Special Activities, Deputy Directorate for Science and Technology, who subsequently approved the plan. Since it had been Sampson's idea, he was transferred to Los Angeles in 1965 to establish and manage the first West Coast office for OSA, DD/S&T. The new organization focused on industrial security for various CIA contractors, but primarily monitored Lockheed's security performance in regard to OXCART at the company's Advanced Development Projects division (better known as the "Skunk Works") in Burbank.

With the assistance of Skunk Works chief Clarence "Kelly" Johnson, Sampson oversaw the growth of his group's workspace from a 10-square-foot closet in a hangar to a slightly larger office adjacent to the communications center. In 1966, he arranged for a new operating location in the basement of the Tishman Building near Los Angeles International Airport that came to be known as the Western Industrial Liaison Detachment (WILD). Sampson also provided assistance to the families of two OXCART pilots, Walter Ray and Jack Weeks, who were lost in fatal accidents in 1967 and 1968.

From 1969 to 1971, Sampson served as commander of the Area 51 test facility at Groom Lake, Nevada. Although the OXCART program had been terminated in June 1968, the CIA/DOD test and evaluation facility was still under the jurisdiction of Detachment 1, 1129th Special Activities Squadron ("Roadrunners") to conduct project closeout operations, and to complete testing of the D-21B ramjet-powered reconnaissance drone as part of projects TAGBOARD and SENIOR BOWL. During this period, the USAF Foreign Technology Division sponsored two projects at Area 51, HAVE DRILL/HAVE FERRY and HAVE GLIB, to evaluate Soviet MiG-17 and MiG-21 fighter aircraft. Between July 1970 and late 1971, the CIA and McDonnell Douglas tested a small, unmanned surveillance drone called AQUILINE, but it never saw operational service. Other programs that took place at Area 51 during this time remain classified.

Under Sampson's command, the 1129th SAS received the USAF Outstanding Unit Award in 1971. An avid outdoorsman who enjoyed sailing and camping, he spent his free time at Area 51 collecting rocks and minerals, and land sailing across the dry lakebed on a modified Aqua Cat catamaran. Sampson left his most indelible mark on the secret base when he assigned the call sign JANET to the EG&G commuter flights that transported workers between Las Vegas, Area 51, and Burbank. Named after his wife, the call sign saw continued use into the 21st Century.

In 1972, Sampson attended the Air War College of the USAF Air University, at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama. He also earned a Master of Public Administration degree at Auburn University. His next CIA assignment was as chief of the Commercial Division, Special Projects Staff, Directorate of Science and Technology where he played a major role in Project AZORIAN, the Agency's ambitious plan to recover a sunken Soviet submarine from the ocean floor using the Hughes Glomar Explorer salvage vessel in the summer of 1974. The following year, Sampson received the Intelligence Medal of Merit for his work on the project, which required unprecedented security constraints.

After retiring from the CIA in 1976, he joined Hughes Aircraft Company's Radar Systems Group as manager of Special Projects. There, he established physical and personnel security standards and procedures, and coordinated company-wide security efforts that were instrumental in securing major contracts.

Sampson left Hughes in 1980 to take a position as manager of Security and Protective Services for Northrop's Advanced Systems Division in Pico Rivera, Calif., during top secret development of the B-2 Advanced Technology Bomber. He remained with Northrop until his retirement in the early 1990s. Sampson was a charter member of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers. He passed away on July 30, 1998.

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