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Thu, 09.13.1934

Henry T. Sampson Jr., Satellite Pioneer born

Henry T. Sampson Jr.

*The birth of Henry Sampson Jr. in 1934 is marked on this date.  He was a Black engineer, inventor (closely associated with the cell phone), author, and film historian.  

Henry Thomas Sampson, Jr. was from Jackson, Mississippi; he graduated from Lanier High School in Jackson, Mississippi 1951. He attended Morehouse College before transferring to Purdue University, where he became an Omega Psi Phi fraternity member. He received a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Purdue University in 1956. He graduated with an MS degree in engineering from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1961.  

Sampson served in the United States Navy from 1962 until 1964 as a research chemical engineer at the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake U.S. Naval Weapons Center.  There he worked with high-energy solid propellants and case-bonding materials for solid rocket motors. Sampson also served as the Director of Mission Development and Operations of the Space Test Program at the Aerospace Corporation in El Segundo, California.  Sampson also received an MS in Nuclear Engineering from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 1965 and his Ph.D. in 1967. He was the first African American to earn a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering in the United States.   

From 1964 to 1967, he received the United States Atomic Energy Commission Award for excellent service at the U.S. Naval Weapons Center. In 1982, he was awarded the Black Image Award from the Aerospace Corporation. He was awarded the Blacks in Engineering, Applied Science Award, and Prize for Education by the Los Angeles Council of Black Professional Engineers in 1983. Sampson was associated with the Board of Directors of the Los Angeles Southwest College Foundation and was a technical consultant to the Historical Black Colleges and Universities Program.  

His patents included a binder system for propellants and explosives and a case bonding system for cast composite propellants. Both inventions are related to solid rocket motors.  On July 6, 1971, he was awarded a patent, with George H. Miley, for a gamma-electrical cell, a device that generates auxiliary power from the shielding of a nuclear reactor.  Additionally, the patent cites the cell's function as a detector with self-power and construction cost advantages over previous detectors.  

In addition to his career as an inventor, Sampson was a noted film historian. He wrote the book Blacks in Black and White: A Source Book on Black Films, which examines often overlooked African American filmmakers from the first half of the 20th century. In addition, he authored The Ghost Walks: A Chronological History of Blacks in Show Business, 1865-1910. Sampson produced documentary films on black filmmakers. In 2005, he published Singin' on the Ether –Waves: A Chronological History of African Americans in Radio and Television Programming, 1925-1955 (two vols, 1270 pages), Lanham, Maryland, and Oxford, UK: Scarecrow Press, 2005.  

In 2011 Sampson donated his considerable collection of historical film memorabilia to Jackson State University. The collection is housed in the H.T. Sampson Library, named for his father, H. T. Sampson Sr., former executive dean of Jackson State University Henry T. Sampson Jr. died on June 4, 2015 in Stockton, CA.  

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