Joe Sample was born in Chicago, Illinois, on March 15th, 1923. He graduated from Yale and in World War II led intelligence missions in China for the Office of Strategic Services, predecessor of the C.I.A. Recalled into the Korean War, he served as Chief, Domestic Intelligence, for Fifth Army Headquarters.
He began work as an intern for a Chicago advertising agency and became Vice President and Media Director. In 1954 he moved to Billings, and a year later he joined then KOOK-AM-TV as a minority stockholder and President. Over the years he established the Montana Television Network with stations in Billings, Butte, Great Falls, and Missoula. He served as President of the Billings Chamber of Commerce (1968) and the Rocky Mountain Broadcasters Association. He was also Vice-Chairman of the Montana Educational Broadcasting Commission.
He was married for forty-three years to Miriam Tyler Willing of Richmond, Virginia, who was a philanthropist and long time promoter of the arts in the Northern Rockies region.
Retiring in 1984, Sample became a programmer and board member of Yellowstone Public Radio. His jazz program "Spreadin' Rhythm Around" is now in its seventeenth year. He became President of the Greater Montana Foundation and The Sample Foundation, a founding director of the Alberta Bair Theater, and founding chairman of the Burton K. Wheeler Center.
During his career he served on a number of boards including the University of Montana School of Business, U.S. National Bank (Billings), Mountain Bell, Boys & Girls Club, United Way, Museum of the Rockies, Northern Hotel Co., Rocky Mountain College, and Montana Public Television. He was a Governor of the Western Canada Hockey League and President/ Owner of the Billings Bighorns.
He is a member of the Montana Broadcasters Hall of Fame. Among his awards are the Governor's Medals for both the Arts and the Humanities and honorary degrees from Montana State University and Rocky Mountain College.
The Greater Montana Foundation thanks Scripps and their Television stations throughout Montana for providing studio, production and edit facilities for the Legacy Broadcasters Initiative interviews. Without their generous support, this project would not have been possible.
The Legacy Project of the Greater Montana Foundation is produced in coordination with the Montana Historical Society. Many thanks to all who work and donate to MHS and its great work.