BISHOP, THOMAS SAMS (1919 ~ 1994). The following is an obituary for Thomas Sams Bishop, former Adjutant General of Texas. The obituary was provided by a family member.
Born January 12, 1919 in Houston, Texas, he was the youngest of four children and the only son of Thomas Sumpter Bishop and Evalyn Rebecca Sams. At the age of four, his parents moved to San Antonio; his father was seriously ill, and when Gen. Bishop was nine, his father died. Gen. Bishop learned early the meaning of kindness and compassion, as well as duty and responsibility. As a widowed mother raising four children, the family moved several times in San Antonio to be near good schools and their extended family. During his high school junior year at Jefferson High School, Gen. Bishop joined the Junior R.O.T.C. Gen. Bishop had found his calling. Upon his graduation from high school, he received the Outstanding Honor Cadet award. He was also a skilled marksman. His R.O.T.C. commander recommended him for further military service and influenced him to join the National Guard. Gen. Bishop began his military service in 1934 when he enlisted in Company F (later Company C), 141st Infantry in San Antonio, Texas. He rose steadily through the ranks and was promoted to sergeant by November 1940. On November 25, 1940, he was inducted into federal service with the 36th Infantry Division (the Texas Division). Concurrently, he was appointed a 2nd Lieutenant of Infantry and was assigned for duty in active service in Company C 141st Infantry.
In December 1940, the Texas Division moved into Camp Bowie at Brownwood Texas to begin the training that was to sustain it through years of combat in Europe. Gen. Bishop was promoted to 1st Lieutenant of Infantry in June 1941, and in early 1942, he completed the Rifle and Heavy Weapons course at the Infantry School. One year later, he was ordered to the Command and General Staff College in Ft. Benning, Georgia from which he graduated in August 1943 as a Captain. In the summer of 1943, he was transferred to the 99th Infantry Division, which was beginning intensive training at Camp Van Dorn, Mississippi. Gen. Bishop’s duties during this time were primarily related to the organization and training of the Division. Shortly after D-Day, the 99th Division entered combat in northern France at Omaha Beach. During the Battle of the Bulge, in the Ardennes forest, the 99th Division distinguished itself in the critical fighting to hold the Elsenborn Ridge - the gateway to Belgium. At the time of the Allied counter attack to close the Bulge, Gen. Bishop became the Operations officer of the 99th Infantry Division. He was now well prepared for this assignment. The Allied forces, led by the American GIs halted then reversed the enemy. The 99th Division was the first complete infantry division to cross the Rhine River at Remagen. They fought fiercely in the Ruhr pocket, crossing the Danube and continued fighting across Germany.
For his World War II service, General Bishop was awarded the Bronze Star of Valor, the Army Commendation Medal, and a personal award from the Belgian government: the Belgian Fourragere. After hostilities ended, Gen. Bishop returned to the United States in October 1945. He separated from active service at Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio, Texas in January 1946. Concurrently, from 1946 until September 1948, he owned and operated a successful concrete and asphalt paving company in San Antonio. On December 10, 1946, the Texas 36th Infantry Division was reactivated as part of the National Guard and Gen. Bishop was requested to serve as the division’s first post-war operations and training officer. Several years later, he moved to Austin, Texas to become the Senior Staff Assistant to the commander of the 36th Division, Major General Miller Ainsworth. In 1954, as a commander during the Laredo-Eagle Pass flood disaster (June 28 - July 2), he and other National Guard troops helped to prevent many deaths during the greatest flood in the history of the city. In recognition of his notable performance of his duties, the Governor awarded him and the entire detachment the Texas Meritorious Service Award.
On January 1, 1960, Governor Price Daniel appointed General Bishop Assistant Adjutant General of Texas. At that time, he rose to assistant commander of the 36th Division. In 1961, General Bishop coordinated one of the most extensive Texas evacuations when Hurricane Carla hit the Texas coast. Also in 1961, while all eyes were on Berlin, the Texas 49th Armored Division was called into federal service and moved to Fort Polk Louisiana for training. General Bishop became project program manager for the rapid organization and training of replacement military units. These troops would be used to relieve the units of the 49th Armored Division called into active duty. This concept proved to be highly successful and became a model for other states. As part of a successful public relations campaign, he organized and conducted a series of community programs throughout the state, speaking with civic leaders and local citizens about the military forces in Texas. This program produced a close working relationship between local governments and the Guard units located in their communities.
On January 1, 1962, Gen. Bishop was appointed the Adjutant General of Texas by Governor Price Daniel. Governor John Connally reappointed Gen. Bishop as Adjutant General during his three terms in office. While overseeing the Texas National Guard, Gen. Bishop was also active in military affairs at the national level. He was on the Executive Council of the National Guard Association of the United States. He was Vice-President and member of the executive council of the Adjutant General’s Association of the United States, and he was a member of the Department of the Army’s Reserve Forces policy committee. In 1969, upon his retirement from the Texas National Guard, Gen. Bishop transferred to the United States Army Reserve and in March, 1969, he voluntarily reverted to the rank of Infantry Colonel, was appointed Assistant Director, Research and Development, U.S. Continental Army Command.
Also in 1969, Gen. Bishop helped create and organize the Texas office of Traffic Safety Administration to comply with national standards for traffic safety. He played a major role in the rapid expansion of the program and helped create the “Drive Friendly” traffic safety program aimed at reducing the death tolls of 16 to 24 year olds. Working with local government officials, the program became one of the most effective and progressive traffic safety programs in the nation.
On February 5, 1973, Governor Dolph Briscoe recalled General Bishop as Adjutant General of Texas and was reconfirmed as a Major General by the United States Senate. With this appointment, General Bishop became one of only two persons ever to serve as Adjutant General under three governors in the 143-year history of the office.
As the Bicentennial approached, Gen. Bishop envisioned a gift to the state and nation honoring the men and women who had served Texas and the United States. The building of a Texas Guard All Faiths Chapel was conceived, to be financed entirely by private donations, and given to the state of Texas. A chapel committee was formed, site locations explored, building plans developed, and a statewide appeal for funds began. Construction was begun in July 1976. After lengthy research, the theme of the Ten Battle Flags of Texas Soldiers was chosen. Bruce Marshall, a noted Texas artist, created a series of watercolor paintings, which are repeated in the Chapel stained glass windows. The main altar window is based on Psalm 39:10 and depicts the right hand of God reaching through the clouds to protect the citizen soldier and his family. The 250-seat chapel pays homage to all citizen soldiers who fought for Texas. The Texas Guard All Faiths Chapel was presented to the state of Texas in a ceremony on July 8, 1978. The dedication plaque reads: Dedicated to the Glory of God and in Honor of all who serve. Five years later,
the Chapel was designated Lt. Gen. Thomas S. Bishop All Faiths Chapel. The naming of the Chapel for Gen. Bishop was due to his principled leadership, compassion for the welfare of his troops, and intense interest in preserving and honoring Texas’ rich military heritage.
For General Bishop’s outstanding state service as Adjutant General, he was awarded the first Texas Meritorious Service Award to be given to any Texas National Guardsman. When Gen. Bishop retired again in January 1979, the President of the United States awarded him the Distinguished Service Medal. General Bishop also received a brevet promotion to the rank of Lieutenant General. Earlier in his career, he received the Eagle Award - a national award given jointly by the Department of the Army, the U.S. Air Force and the National Guard Bureau - a rare tribute given for exemplary service throughout an individual’s career.
Following his retirement from the Texas National Guard, General Bishop was active in a number of local, state and national groups including: serving as membership chairman on the executive committee of the Retired Officers of the United States; serving as a member of the executive committee of the Texas Retired Officers Association; serving as EMPACT chairman of the Texas Public Employees Association; serving as the first president of the Texas Military Forces Museum; serving as a substitute Sunday school teacher in his church and other activities. He also donated his time and energy lecturing to groups about Texas’ rich and colorful military history in the All Faiths Chapel. The Texas Senate paid tribute to General Bishop in its first meeting following his death on October 5, 1994 with Senate Joint Resolution 147 (74th Regular Session). In speaking of General Bishop, his chief of Staff Colonel Prescott A. Stark said of him “General Bishop is a great, effective leader and generalship and leadership came naturally to him, but it took more than years of study, experience, understanding, imagination... I found his decision-making process to be faultless, not always popular, but for the best interest of the Guard program overall. He never lost sight of each individual as a person, and his family and their best interests was in his heart. He was one of the most compassionate men I have ever known. His singleness of purpose, his dedication and devotion to duty, integrity and honor are unequaled.... A true Christian soldier who had a vision for the Guard.”