Samuel N. Nicholson, Jr.

NO. 17765 . 1 Dec 1927 - 19 Mar 2002  

Died in Austin, TX
Inurned in West Point Post Cemetery, West Point NY

Samuel Newton Nicholson Jr, was born in Camden, SC, the only child of Samuel Nicholson, Sr., and Mary Edna Clyburn. He attended the Camden public schools and graduated as valedictorian in June 1945.

Immediately upon graduation, he entered the Army and was trained as an aircraft radio operator and cryptographer. He subsequently was selected by the Army to attend Clemson University. While there, he was nominated by a South Carolina legislator to attend the Military Academy. At his entrance physical examination, he weighed in at just under the weight requirements. The examining doctor said, "Son, how badly do you want to go to West Point?" He replied, "More than anything in the world, Sir." The doctor then wrote in the required weight and said to him "Congratulations, soldier, be sure to drink a lot of milkshakes." He was known to drink a lot of milkshakes.

Sam entered USMA in 1946. The Howitzer characterization says Sam’s nickname was "Tiger," and that he was "a feared opponent of visiting wrestling teams’ and "not quite sold on the restrictions of West Point." Although slight of build, he was an avid and aggressive athlete all his life. He was always up for a football, whiffle hall, or tennis game, or a softball game in a local league. He was a stickler for disciplined play and following the rules.

Upon his graduation, Sam chose the Air Force, which was what he had always wanted. He married Ella Priscilla Kresge of Lehighton, PA, in 1950, and they proceeded to navigation, bombing, and radar schools, where Sam became a triple rated observer for the new jet-powered bombers.

His subsequent assignments as a flyer, however, were in the Strategic Air Command’s B29 and B 50 bombers. His main assignment was with the 509th Bomb Wing, the unit that had bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of WWII. He was responsible for dropping test atomic bombs. Dad recounted the time when he was commanded, "Boys, fly through the clouds." Following those orders, he recalled how the surface of the aircraft actually glowed from radioactivity
During the time of the Korean and Cold Wars, his wing was assigned targets in the Soviet Union targets where the likelihood of return was suspect. Sam participated in several deployments to strike bases in England and Guam. This experience, as well as the Great Depression and a Scottish heritage, shaped his view of the world. He was insistent that all his children learn to be strong in character, independent, and enter enduring professions.

Sam then obtained his aeronautical engineering degree from the Air Force Institute of Technology. He served at Bergstrom AFB (12th and 27th Strategic Fighter Wings) and MacDill AFB (305th Bomb Wing). While at MacDill, Sam headed a team that found the cause of the loss of six B 47s.

About this time, the Strategic Air Command developed its "weapons system' concept, and Sam was assigned to the B 52/KC135 Operational Engineering Section at Castle AFB. There he worked on many projects, including B 52G cold weather, wing stress, and 1000 hour operation tests; effects of extremely cold weather on fuel efficiency , and problems associated with extended flights over polar regions.

During this time, Sam’s health began to fail, and he was transferred to Letterman General Hospital in California. There he underwent surgery and was retired with 100 percent disability.

Upon regaining his health, Sam and his family headed back to Austin where he enrolled in the University of Texas and received his Ph.D. in education in 1964. He held a succession of college and university positions in Texas, including dean of men at Amarillo College, dean of administration at Navarro College, and director of inter institutional relations at the University of Mary Hardin Baylor. Dedicated to education, Sam later taught in the Killeen and Hayes County school districts and was a college professor.

Sam joined the Texas State Guard and served as a company commander, battalion commander, and ultimately as the full time director of personnel as a colonel. He later became the director of the Texas State Guard Division, receiving several awards and commendations.

Sam was active in the Rotary Clubs of Belton and West Austin and was elected president of both clubs. He served as chaplain for the Texas Retired Officers Association (Austin chapter) and the Veterans of Foreign Wars (Post 443), of which he was a life member.

Always central in his life was his Christian faith and service. He and his family were active in Baptist churches in every town in which they lived. He was a deacon chairman, Sunday School Director, chairman of many committees, and teacher of both adults and children. Sam also was elected to the executive board of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. Sam and Priscilla served on a number of church sponsored mission trips in the U.S. and made two evangelical trips to India. After retirement in 1989, they served with the Foreign Mission Board as English teachers in China for two years.

Priscilla was his Iifelong partner. She earned a nursing degree from the University of Mary Hardin Baylor when the family lived in Belton and kept current in her field by working and caring for their seven children. Later she served in a number of nursing jobs in hospitals and public health organizations.

Sam is survived by his wife Priscilla and their seven children: Dr. Charles Nicholson, wife Dr Judy, and their two children: Alex and Reed; daughter Mary Olden and her husband, Mike; daughter Eve Klein, husband Jjohn, and their three children: Adrianne, Nicholas, and Adam; son COL Robert Nicholson, wife Lori, and their two children: Annie Rose and Niki; daughter Dr. Marjorie White, husband Ralph, and their four children: Robert, Priscilla, Lillian, and Sammy; daughter Amy Sides, husband Schafer, and their three children: Sarah, Mary, and Samantha, and son Chaplain (MAJ) Ted Nicholson, USAFR.