Local man loved flying


The birth of a child creates a new, unwritten adventure book.

Certainly Clyde and Viola Samford of Chrisman were unable to predict the future of their son Alan G. Samford, born May 1, 1951. The boy grew up encountering the typical small town experiences and graduated second in his 1969 class at Chrisman High School.

Samford’s career path started after he entered Purdue University as a Professional Pilot Technology major. He earned a pilot’s license in 1970 and graduated from Purdue in 1973 with a 3.48 GPA and as a member of the Phi Eta Sigma Honorary Scholastic Fraternity.

While in college, Samford worked part-time for Vercoa Air Service Inc. as a first officer on commuter flights and was hired by The Flying Tigers Line after graduating Purdue. Flying Tigers was a pioneering air freight business founded by Robert William Prescott, who was a pilot with the famed Flying Tigers combat unit of early World War II.

Flying Tigers Line merged with FedEx in 1988 and Samford became a FedEx pilot, heading up several committees including the grievance committee. He was active in the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) union for airline pilots and was the Local Executive Council (LEC) chairman at Newark, N.J. Eventually due to many divisions in the union, Samford stepped down as chairman of the union and let someone else take over.

Samford never forgot his roots while flying the big cargo planes. Early in his career, between flights with Flying Tigers, Samford returned to Chrisman and worked as a Cessna 310 captain and flight instructor at Bowman Aviation in Paris. He held another side job of flying airmail for Hamilton Aviation in Hamilton, Ohio, from January to August of 1976.

Flying was Samford’s first love but he also had other interests. While still piloting, he returned to school at Seton Hall University in New Jersey and graduated in 1990 with a Juris Doctorate degree. He was admitted to the Illinois Bar Association and opened a law office in Chrisman.

Another interest was horse racing. He loved horse racing so much he bought a filly, named her Lass Trump, and raced her for two years. The filly ran 18 races, won 10 and never finished less than third. Following her racing career, the horse became a brood mare but only one of her foals found success on the track.

Following his love of flight, Samford bought a North American AT-6d. He regarded the World War II era trainer a sheer thing of beauty. Owing a vintage warbird was a dream come true for Samford, and there was not a time when he did not love to fly that perfect machine. He was always willing to take a passenger up with him, although some said once was enough.

Samford flew many types of airplanes during his career: the DC-8, B-747, B-727 and the DC-10. Although one could say his favorite was his own AT-6d Warbird. He was a member of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Warbirds of American and Warbirds of the World, which are organizations dedicated to keeping vintage military aircraft flightworthy.

In 1998, Samford received terrible news when he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS. The disease progressed faster than normal, and he succumbed to Lou Gherig’s Disease July 8, 1999, ending a true legacy in Edgar County’s aviation history.