1946 Colonel Samuel 2024

Colonel Samuel Raymond Graves III

March 6, 1946 — April 7, 2024


Colonel (USA Ret.) Samuel Raymond Graves III, an accomplished and decorated military officer and iconic Indianapolis radio personality for over 40 years, died peacefully on April 7, 2024, in San Diego. He was 78. He had suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease for five years, and his health declined rapidly after the sudden and tragic loss of his son, Michael Douglass Graves, due to a martial arts accident in January. Sam lived just 89 days following the death of his son with whom he had lived for about 18 months in Anaheim, California, the home state he loved.

Sam was born March 9, 1946, in Covina, California, the son of Samuel Raymond Graves, Jr. and Anna Ruth Graves (Samkowski) while his father was attending college in Pasadena. He is survived by his wife, Sabra Ann Graves, his son, Jon Erik Graves (and his wife, Lindsey), two grandsons, Everen and Christian Graves, his brother, Joseph Graves (and his wife, Lois), his sister Mary Anna-Louise Gothi (and her husband, Devendra), his step-children, Michaela Phillips and Mark Phillips (and his wife, Jan), and several nephews, nieces, cousins, and step-grandchildren.

Sam’s father became an Army chaplain in 1953. His father’s military assignments took his family to numerous Army posts including Georgia, Illinois, France, Missouri, Colorado, and Kentucky, where Sam graduated from Fort Knox High School in 1964. As a teenager, Sam rescued his sister Mary from drowning in the ocean and he became her life-long hero. About a year after high school, Sam enlisted in the Army and subsequently graduated from Officer Candidate School as a second lieutenant. In 1968 he married Jane Blevins, and during their marriage they had two sons, Jon and Michael.

Sam, by then a captain, was deployed to Vietnam in 1968, where he was assigned as an advisor to a Vietnamese infantry company north of Saigon. He and the Vietnamese company commander led their soldiers on numerous combat patrols in the countryside. On one such patrol, Sam was almost killed by a rocket propelled grenade that hit an embankment in front of his platoon. His Vietnamese counterpart, Lt. Dzung (“Zhoom”) Do Linh became his life-long friend, and later praised Sam as “a close friend and true hero; his courage and sacrifice during the Vietnam War will forever be remembered.” Sam eventually helped his friend Dzung immigrate to the US.

Following his initial military service, Sam returned to Indianapolis where he studied at IUPUI and graduated with a BA in International Politics in the early 1970’s. Sam was gifted with a beautiful baritone voice (a la Robert Goulet, his singing idol), and began his iconic Indianapolis radio career in the 1970’s reporting the news on WXLW. Throughout his radio career Sam Graves (aka Sam Hammer) also directed and anchored the news in his distinctive manner at WIRE, WIBC, WIFE, WNAP, and WZPL during the height of the market popularity of those stations. He was the Indianapolis bureau chief for MetroNetworks.

Radio colleague Ann Craig-Cinnamon described Sam as “smart, classy, elegant, and completely goofy at the same time.” He also starred in Footlight Musicals, and sang the National Anthem at Pacer’s games. He hosted public affairs programs on TV and Indiana University’s “Consider This,” a program which dealt with international politics. Sam did a variety of other voice work including becoming the voice of HH Gregg advertising for many years.

He worked with his brother Joe to produce a weekly radio show called “For the Sake of Argument” where they debated politics and current events. He had a wry and quirky sense of humor as demonstrated by his outrageously silly and politically irreverent news-spoof radio series “On the Nose News” produced with his friend Jim Spinello. Several times he hosted the Indianapolis 500 awards dinner, and he was a regular participant in Veterans Day events.

During his radio career in the 1980’s, Sam spent weekends serving in the Indiana National Guard as commander of the 120th Public Information Detachment at Fort Benjamin Harrison, where one of his subordinates was Sergeant Dan Quayle who later became a U.S Senator and vice president. Sam then transferred to the Army Reserves where he helped organize a fledgling unit of elite logisticians who trained to be on call to fill high-level Army staff positions in Germany when needed for war-time operations or exercises involving mass movements of soldiers and equipment.

That training paid off in December 1990, when the 200 members of Sam’s unit were given 48-hours-notice to deploy to Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, where they would be working for Major General Gus Pagonis, who was overseeing the rapid buildup of some 500,000 soldiers, Marines and Air Force personnel as part of Operation Desert Shield. The Reservists from Indianapolis quickly stepped into key staff jobs in Pagonis’ headquarters, including Sam, by then a lieutenant colonel, who became Assistant Chief of Staff.

Working 12-hour shifts seven days a week, the Indianapolis soldiers helped Pagonis direct the rapid deployment of 200,000 Army soldiers from Germany to Saudi Arabia, including all their combat vehicles, artillery pieces, helicopters, and equipment. It involved receiving hundreds of air flights and quickly unloading dozens of giant cargo ships. It was a huge undertaking that began in December and ended in early February, just in time for the launching of the massive Desert Storm ground attack into Kuwait and Iraq. His unit, the 21st TAACOM, received a huge welcome home.

After returning to Indianapolis, Sam continued to serve in the Army Reserves, was promoted to full colonel, and became commander of his own unit where his motto addressing each soldier was, “You’re the best!” Upon Sam’s retirement in 2000, his long military service was recognized in a resolution adopted by the Indiana General Assembly. His military awards and decorations included the Combat Infantryman Badge, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Meritorious Service medals, Southeast Asia Service Medal, Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Palm Device, and Kuwaiti Liberation Medal. Sam was also honored as a Kentucky Colonel and by Indiana University as a Distinguished Alumnus.

In September 2000 Sam married his British sweetheart and friend of 25 years Sabra Phillips, and they resided in Cicero, Indiana. He was very active as a member of the Indianapolis Service Club, whose members include many senior retired military officers. Sam and Sabra travelled often to England and were very active members of St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, where Sam was a Senior Warden and Head Acolyte and was extensively involved in the liturgy which he loved. For many years Sam and Sabra sponsored a child named Sneha through his sister and brother-in-law’s non-profit, Sunshine Kids International, caring very much about their orphanage work in India.

A Celebration of Life eucharist service will begin at noon on Saturday, May 11 at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in Noblesville at 444 South Harbour Drive. Pre-rite visitation will start at 11:00am. Following the service there will be military honors, a brief interment rite, and additional visitation. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to St. Michael’s in memory of Sam.

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Service Schedule

Past Services


Saturday, May 11, 2024

11:00am - 12:00 pm (Eastern time)

St Michael's Episcopal Church

444 S Harbour Dr, Noblesville, IN 46062

There will be additional visitation following military honors.

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.

Celebration of Life

Saturday, May 11, 2024

Starts at 12:00 pm (Eastern time)

St Michael's Episcopal Church

444 S Harbour Dr, Noblesville, IN 46062

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.


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