Lt. Col. Emmett L. “Sam” Herron

BURLESON — Lt. Col. Emmett L. “Sam” Herron, 78, passed away Thursday, Jan. 19, 2012.

Military graveside: 12:45 pm Tuesday, Jan. 24 at Dallas Fort Worth National Cemetery. Visitation: 10:30 am to 11:30 am Tuesday at Mayfield Kiser.

Sam was born near Aquilla, Texas, and grew up farming peanuts with his family.  He graduated from high school at the age of 16, and eventually tried his hand at farming on his own with a little help from his parents.  Unfortunately, his timing to try and start his own farm fell during a period of severe drought in the region.  His farming plans having been foiled, and with the United States entering a ‘police action’ in Korea, he enlisted in the Air Force in 1952 at the age of 19.

He served almost 21 years in the Air Force. During basic training he applied for the Aviation Cadets program that took him through pilot and officer training.  On August 4, 1954 he received his wings and commission as a 2nd Lieutenant. He was stationed at various bases and piloted many aircraft during his time with the USAF. Most notably, he was with the 531st Fighter Bomber Squadron at Chambley AB in France in 1956-1957.  While there, he piloted his favorite aircraft, the F-86.  His mission was “delivery”, if needed, of nuclear bombs to the communist European nations.  In October 1967, he was stationed in Udorn RTAFB, Thailand on the RF-4C with the 14th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron.  His mission was reconnaissance into North Vietnam.  He became a member of the Red River Valley Pilots Association (a River Rat) with his first flight across the Red River, otherwise known at the Mekong River.   He flew his 100th mission in about 8 months to complete his combat tour and returned to the states on July 4th, 1968.  He finished his service at Randolph AFB as a Flight Instructor (ISIP) in San Antonio, Texas.  During his career with the USAF he received the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Air Medal with ten oak leaf clusters, the Combat Readiness Medal, the Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal with service star, Republic of Vietnam Service Medal with three campaign stars, the Armed Forces Reserve Medal and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal.

After retirement from the military he accepted a contract job as a Human Factors Engineer with Bunker-Ramo at Wright Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio.  His specialty was pilot/cockpit interface.  After 8 years in Ohio, he accepted a job with General Dynamics (later Lockheed) in Fort Worth, Texas.  His career there took him to Taiwan for a couple of years working on a fighter the Taiwanese were building.  Once he returned to the States he retired again, but soon found himself at American Airlines instructing 757/ 767  ground school.  He eventually moved to the MD-80 and finished his career at American as an MD-80 simulator instructor.  He officially and finally retired on January 1st, 2005.  His joke in retirement was that “since retiring I have done nothing and I usually don’t even start that until around 9:00am or later.  The problem with that is not knowing when to quit!”

He was not only a patriot and soldier but more importantly, a beloved husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather and friend.

Survivors: He is survived by his wife, LaNelle; four daughters: Amy Mauzy & spouse Jack, Jennifer Herron, LeAnn O’Leary & spouse Greg, and Julie Flolo; six stepsons: Ron Fuller & spouse Jill, Jim Fuller & spouse Cheryl, Scott Fuller & spouse Jana, Steve Pelham, Michael Pelham, and Robert Pelham; eight grandchildren: Jared Fuller, Chelsea Mauzy, Brittany Billings, Kayleigh Fuller, Jordyn Fuller, Cutter Fuller, Alex Flolo, Sydney Fuller; and two great-grandchildren: MaKenna Shea Fuller and Erik Gage Fuller.

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Messages of Condolence

  1. Jerrell Herron says:

    A Great Man and a Great Uncle, my prayers to all our family.

  2. Bruce & Romaine Reichenbgach says:

    We feel much sadness with the loss of Sam. We came together at American Airlines, entered MD80 Pilot training together and often worked together. I never met anyone I liked more. He was well respected and a friend to all. I feel like I lost a very close brother. I pray we will meet again in a place of peace. We send our condolences and best wishes to LaNelle and the entire family.

  3. Patti & Andy Lange says:

    We will reminisce often about our fun times as a four-some. Sam, you were the best guy and I loved our razzing banter….your sense of humor was unmatched and your spirit was sheer fun and sassy. Pave the way for the rest of us….I’ll bring the pp’s.

    PS – Thanks for all the special chuckles and memories over “Airplanes, Hi-Tech Devices, LaNelle’s Baking, Texas Rangers, Oregon Ducks and the Trailblazers”….just to name a few!

    Big Long Squeezable Hug….we love you and we will miss you!!!

    Patti and Andy Lange

  4. Don Condra" says:

    Sincere condolences to all of Sam’s family. A wonderful man among men. He worked for me in the Air Force and again when he joined me at Wright-Patterson. He was highly respected for his abilities in pioneering work on control and display for aircraft. His contributions will be long remembered as will he. I am honored just to have known Sam. God speed old friend. “He who is remembered will never die”. Sam will be long and fondly remembered.

  5. Ralph Madero says:

    So long my dear friend,Sam. We had some great flights together in both the Air Force and Fed Ex. You and La Nelle were especially kind and generous to my late Lucia and I when we joined you at WPAFB with Bunker Ramo. You are in my heart as a fine friend, a gentle soul and an especially skilled pilot. You shall remain in my heart as you launch on your final “High Flight” “O I have slipped the surly bonds of earth, And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings….

  6. Greg condra says:

    True hero down.

  7. Greg Condra says:

    Patriot and instructor of true pilots.

  8. Greg Condta says:

    I shall see your contrails forever!

  9. Kip Taylor says:

    Please accept my sincere condolences for Sam’s passing. I knew and flew with him at IPIS. He was a great guy and a good stick.

  10. Phil Handley says:

    As a fellow River Rat, I offer my sincere condolences. I did not personally know Sam, which I regret, but I darn well know the kind of man that he surely was and look forward to meeting him one day in a better place. So, “Here’s a nickel on the grass to you my friend, and your spirit, enthusiasm, sacrifice and courage… but most of all to your friendship. Your’s is a dying breed and when you are gone, the world will be a lesser place.”
    Phil “Hands” Handley
    Colonel, USAF (Ret.)

  11. Ken Mays says:

    Always enjoyed flying with you Ol Buddy.
    Good memories of our days together at James Connolly AFB and Laughlin AFB. Will never forget the icing on the way to Portland.
    My sincere condolences to the family. Another great pilot headed West. And he reached out and touched the Face of God!. Ken Mays

  12. Don Drouin says:

    I served with Sam at Udorn. He was always a kind and thoughtful man and I count him as a friend. I’ll miss him.

  13. Rick Bates says:

    So sorry and saddened to read the message of Sam’s passing. I worked with him at American and partied with him in ther Rats. LaNelle,. you are in my prayers, he was a true gentleman and leaves a hole in all of us.

  14. Chet and Eva Lee Griffin says:

    Regret to hear of Sam’s passing; he was a fine officer and great mentor to several of us young instructor pilots at Laughlin AFB in the early 60s. Sam was easy going and well liked by all the instructors and very willing to share lessons he had learned along the way. Ken and Elaine Mays, who previously added comments, were also in our circle of friends at Laughlin. Chet Griffin

  15. Amy Herron Mauzy says:

    We are saddened by the loss of our father, and appreciate your kind condolences. He was a kind and loving man, who is sorely missed. There are so many facets of his life that we missed out on as young children. We would love it if you would be willing to share any stories of the time you spent with him. Please feel free to email me at I will certainly pass all anecdotes on to our very extended family. “Smilin’ Sam” lives on in me!

  16. Amy Herron Mauzy says:

    Your mountain is waiting, Daddy.
    So. . . . get on your way!

  17. RICHARD E READ, LT/COL (RET) says:

    LaNelle and family, I was doing some research on IPIS and came upon Sam’s obituary. I hope this gets to you. I worked for Sam in the flight standards div, 70-73 and lived a block away in Rancho Cordova. He was a great boss and pilot. Sorry this is so late but you have my sincerest symphathy in your loss. Dick Read

  18. Charles R. Lakins, Col (Ret) says:

    I am so sorry to hear of Sam’s passing. He worked for me at Laughlin AFB in the early 60’s, and then we were stationed together at IPIS in the late 60’s. He was a great guy, a great instructor, and a fine friend.

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