Upon his passing in the summer of 2017, General Wilson’s family donated all of his writings, awards, books, and memorabilia to Hampden-Sydney College—a treasure trove that includes pictures, U.S. Army papers, diplomatic passports, personal notes, and other artifacts. The depth and breadth of this collection is astounding, encompassing military history from WWII to the Global War on Terror, the building of our current national security infrastructure, higher education, Virginia politics, and local civic life.
A small group of alumni and friends made generous gifts to support the hiring of a full-time term archivist—Dr. Colin Woodward, who began his work in July 2019—to digitize and catalogue the collection. In so doing, they ensured that General Wilson’s memory will continue to teach and inspire generations of Hampden-Sydney men as well as others across the Commonwealth and the nation.
As of September 2020, much progress has been made on the Sam Wilson Papers. Over the summer, Dr. Woodward took a detailed inventory of the major sections of the collection. Most of General Sam’s papers cover his life and career from 1970 until his death in 2017. This inventory, which spans more than 70 pages, includes notes on all of General Wilson’s correspondence, covering his world travel, teaching, and professional activities. His papers contain much discussion of politics, the military, and other important events that have taken place since Richard Nixon’s election as president.
In March, COVID-19 forced Hampden-Sydney College to cancel in-person classes and staff members were encouraged to work from home. Dr. Woodward took the opportunity to start a blog dedicated to the Wilson project. There you will find articles on General Sam, transcriptions of interesting and historic letters written by him and his family, and photographs from the collection. A recent update features government photos documenting the wartime experiences of Merrill’s Marauders in Burma in 1943 and 1944. All blog posts are free and available to the public.
In the spring, Dr. Woodward began an interview series on General Wilson, talking with those who knew Sam well. His first guest was Drew Prehmus ’08 who wrote the General’s one and only biography. Another guest has been Joe Galloway, author of We Were Soldiers Once and Young and a close friend of Sam’s. These podcast are available on the WordPress blog referenced above. Dr. Woodward is also getting the word out on the Wilson project. This summer, he wrote an article on the Wilson papers for the Society of American Archivists’ online publication Archival Outlook. He also wrote a piece on Wilson for the FarmvilleHerald. Although he was scheduled to present a paper on General Wilson at the Virginia Forum in September, the conference has been rescheduled for March 2021 due to the pandemic.