Oct. 26, 2010— -- Lt. Col. James H. Champion, father of "Good Morning America" weather anchor Sam Champion, passed away Oct. 25, 2010.
"After a life of service to his country and his family, Lt. Col. James H. Champion, U.S. Marine Corps (retired), passed away last night in Houston, Texas," "Good Morning America" senior executive producer Jim Murphy wrote in an e-mail to the show's staff today. "He was better known to us as Sam Champion's dad. Sam, his sister Teresa and his mom, Sylvia, were all together with the Lt. Col. at the end."
James H. Champion was born Dec. 26, 1934, in Paducah, Ky. to B.F. "Jack" and Josephine (Hampston) Champion. After graduating from St. Mary's High School in Paducah, Ky. in 1953, he enlisted in the Marine Corps, serving in Japan and Hawaii. Upon discharge he attended Peabody Teachers College in Nashville (now part of Vanderbilt University), graduating in 1958.
Champion employed by Southern Bell Telephone prior to returning to active duty in 1962. A Marine infantry officer, he participated in operations in the Dominican Republic in 1965 and was assigned as Security Officer on USS Simon Lake, forward deployed in Holy Loch, Scotland in support of ballistic missile submarine nuclear deterrent patrols.
Deployed to the Republic of Vietnam in 1968 and 1969, he participated in combat operations as a rifle company commander at Khe Sanh and during the 1968 Tet Offensive. He completed his tour as a Combined Action Program (CAP) team leader, including operations during the Tet Offensive. His combat decorations included the Bronze Star (two awards), the Combat Action Ribbon and the Presidential Unit Citation (two awards).
Later assignments included the Naval War College, command of a Marine Infantry Battalion, 9th Marine Expeditionary Brigade Operations Officer in Okinawa, and Headquarters Marine Corps. He retired from active duty in 1981.
Following retirement, Champion and his wife settled in Smithland, Ky. but later relocated to Aransas Pass, Rockport and Houston, Texas.
Lt. Col. Champion is survived by his wife of 53 years Sylvia (Murphy) Champion, son Samuel James Champion, daughter Teresa Champion, son-in-law John Quigley, grandchildren Sydney and James Quigley.
"Sam tells me his tight knit military family is strong and hanging together to face their time of grief," Murphy wrote. " Please give your thoughts and prayers to Sam and his family."
In lieu of flowers the family respectfully requests any donations in memoriam be made to:
MD Anderson Cancer Center (RE: Lt. Col. J. H. Champion)
PO Box 4486, Houston, TX 77210
Virginia Autism Project at VirginiaAutismProject.org