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Fallen Trooper Holly V Holcomb

Holly V Holcomb

Holly V. Holcomb, Jr.
1917 – 1975

The Oregon State Police had two previous superintendents when Holly Holcomb was appointed superintendent in 1966. Charles Pray was the first and he served from 1931 to 1946. He was followed by Harold Maison who was superintendent from 1946 to 1966. Holly Holcomb was the first superintendent who came up through the ranks. He was hired as a traffic officer just 4 days after his twenty-second birthday, achieved the rank of Sergeant in 1947, was promoted to lieutenant in 1955 and made captain less than four years later in 1959. He was appointed deputy superintendent in 1962 and then to superintendent in 1966 on the retirement of Harold Maison.

Superintendent Holcomb first served in the Klamath Falls office and during his long career also served in West Slope, St. Helens, Milwaukie and Roseburg. When he was promoted to lieutenant in 1955 he was assigned to the Milwaukie Arson Investigation Division where he remained for one year.

On Tuesday morning, November 25, 1975 Superintendent Holcomb and Deputy Superintendent Byron Hazelton were walking toward the entrance of the Oregon State Public Service Building where the State Police Headquarters were located. A man approached the two and requested to talk to Superintendent Holcomb. Deputy Superintendent Hazelton continued on toward the Headquarters. According to articles in the Oregon Statesmen an employee of the State Highway Division who was near the scene said that he heard two gunshots and saw Superintendent Holcomb fall to the ground and a man walking toward the Public Service Building entrance. The gunman, 59 year-old Robert H. Wampler, a former member of the Oregon State Police was arrested on the spot by Deputy Superintendent Hazelton and Lieutenant H. D. Watson. Wampler had apparently been carrying a grudge against Superintendent Holcomb for many years. Wampler was a member of the Oregon State Police for about 15 years until he was dismissed from the force in 1958. The dismissal came after being charged with insubordination. Those charges had been brought against Wampler by Holly Holcomb when Holcomb was a lieutenant in Milwaukie. Wampler fought the charges for many years going as far as the Oregon Supreme Court. Robert Wampler was tried and found guilty of the murder of Superintendent Holcomb and sentenced to life in prison. He was paroled 1984 and died in 1997.

In 1988 the State Police established the Holly V. Holcomb Award. This award is presented to officers who, while serving in an official capacity, distinguish themselves by reacting to a situation in a heroic or positive and professional manner to reduce the risk of life or injury to another person.

Holly Vernon Holcomb, Jr., was born January 7, 1917 in Mississippi to Holly V. and Mamie McGee Holcomb. About 1922 Holly and his parents and older brother moved to Oregon. He grew up in the logging community of Vernonia and worked at logging jobs in the woods before joining the State police. He attended Oregon State College and was a three-year letterman in football. He took leave from the OSP from 1943 to 1946 and served in the Army Air Corps. He became a pilot and was promoted to Captain. He flew with the Sixth Combat Squadron in the South Pacific during the war and received 5 awards. Superintendent Holcomb was married and had two daughters. He is buried in Restlawn Cemetery in West Salem, Oregon.

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