Thursday, April 17, 2014
Terry Sams Sr., known to many as “Trooper Terry,” passed away at the age of 80 on April 11.
Sams was known for his work at WJBF News Channel 6, and his legacy encompassed almost every job imaginable in television. According to WJBF's site, Sams held positions from program director to weatherman to promotion manager and everything between. He was even a part-owner of the channel at one time.
But playing the part of Trooper Terry is what made him a hometown hero and legend in the CSRA.
Sams made his home in North Augusta and entertained children as Trooper Terry for 20 years. From 1962 to 1982, whenever children heard, “Hey, kids” on their television sets, they knew it was Trooper Terry Time.
On the Facebook group “I grew up watching Trooper Terry,” which has nearly 4,000 members, fans mourned Sams' passing. Many passed along kind words for his trademarked live birthday parties, with a lot of those being children who were on the show and have since grown up.
“My heart is broken,” wrote Meg Thompson Webb on the Facebook group's wall. “I grew up watching him, and one of the biggest thrills of childhood was being on that show twice.”
The condolences even came in as far as the West Coast.
Janet Mayer Weiss wrote, “I now live in Sacramento, Calif., and am saddened by the fact that I will never be able to attend a reunion with him ... Heaven has a new angel, and he will entertain there with his ‘magic viewing screen' while grilling.”
WJBF News Channel 6 news anchor John Hart said Sams had a lasting impact on the Aiken-Augusta community.
“It never ceased to amaze me that, no matter how many years have passed since his show went off the air, he was the biggest star in Augusta television,” Hart said.
“Everywhere I go, someone will always ask me if I know Trooper Terry. As recently as last fall when we hosted an open house event at Television Park, he was, by far, the feature attraction. I think that's a legacy anyone would be proud to have,” he added.
Marty Nason wrote that Sams was “a positive and powerful influence on many persons of my generation.”
Sams' impact went well beyond what most only saw on screen. He was an active member of the North Augusta community as a member of First Baptist Church, and he volunteered with The Salvation Army Board and Augusta Exchange Club. He also was the original master of ceremonies for North Augusta Idol.
Chuck Deen, North Augusta High School's band director, said he thinks he was on Trooper Terry's show twice.
“I was one of the thousands on it. It's kind of what we all did around here. We watched that show. Everyone wanted to have their birthday party on it. I remember his daughter, Kate, graduated with me, and I would see him around. He was such a very, very nice man, and everyone thought a lot of him. I'm pretty sure he told me that he was an all-state trombonist and in all-state band when he was in Tennessee. I heard that he played real well – he played in the church orchestra.”
Deen called Sams' voice “iconic” and pointed out that it is still used for WJBF commercials to this day.
“I think everybody around here who grew up in the CSRA; you hear it and know who it is,” he said.
Vicki Edwards also echoed Deen's comments.
“I remember the excitement of being able to watch Trooper Terry every weekend,” she said. “I remember actually being on Trooper Terry once. It was so long ago that I can't remember if it was my birthday, or someone else's, but I do remember that I was a little upset that I wasn't chosen to turn the dial on the ‘Magic Viewing Screen.' Trooper Terry was so much fun, and we welcomed him into our home for many years growing up. I hate that his show wasn't still running when my son was growing up. He was a legend to many of us in this area, and will be forever remembered in making us smile as kids.”
Others also remembered their time on the show.
“I loved watching Trooper Terry when I was a kid,” Katrice Gillian said. “I was on the show a couple of times. Sometimes my parents would take me to the TV station on Reynolds Street to watch the show through a big glass window. Later on in my adult life, Terry Sams helped me through some struggles that I had in life by being a great mentor.”
Funeral arrangements are being handled by Posey Funeral Directors. Services will be conducted on Thursday, April 17, at 6 p.m. at First Baptist Church of North Augusta. Dr. Tommy Meador, Dr. Randy Cooper and the Rev. Roy Kiser will be officiating.
WJBF is asking anyone who would like to send cards to Sams' family to send them to: Television Park, 1336 Augusta West Parkway, Augusta, GA 30909. Memorials may be mailed to: The Salvation Army, Major Tony Perez, 1833 Broad St., Augusta, GA 30904.
Scott Rodgers is the news editor at The North Augusta Star and has been with the paper since 2013.