Is your surname Sampson?

Connect to 13,338 Sampson profiles on Geni

Share your family tree and photos with the people you know and love

  • Build your family tree online
  • Share photos and videos
  • Smart Matching™ technology
  • Free!

William Sampson, Jr.

Also Known As: "Sonny", "Kvs-Kvna"
Birthplace: Okmulgee, Okmulgee County, Oklahoma, United States
Death: June 03, 1987 (53)
Houston, Harris County, Texas, United States (conflicting causes of death reported - see About)
Place of Burial: Hitchita, McIntosh County, Oklahoma, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Deacon William Sampson, Sr. and Mabel Sampson
Husband of Yonna Sampson and Private
Father of Private; Robert Benjamin Sampson; William Lance Sampson and Private
Brother of Vena Mae Randall; Norma Jean Bible and Shirley Ann Sampson

Occupation: rodeo performer, actor, artist
Managed by: Shirley Marie Caulk
Last Updated:
view all

Immediate Family

About Will Sampson


Was this Will full-blooded Muscogee/Creek (native American)? At least three sources on the Internet (which should be found again) point out that he was. However, Brian D. Worthy's "WANTED - Decendants of Black Creek Indians by Blood listed on 1910 Indian Population Schedule Census" message at implies that all of the people listed in it are part Muscogee/Creek and part black, and his father is one of the listed people (search for "Wiley SAMPSON"), and his paternal grandmother seems to be another of the listed people (search for "Cinda (HILL) HARJO").

The "SAMPSON, WILLIAM (1933-1987)" article in the Oklahoma Historical Society's Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History & Culture (link below) reports that he died from scleroderma that resulted from his successful heart/lung transplant surgery (1987). Wikipedia's "Will Sampson" article (link below) reports that he died of post-operative kidney failure and pre-operative malnutrition. Which is correct? Further research is warranted.

brief biography and family

Given the Muscogee name Kvs-Kvna (Left-Handed) at birth.

Will Sampson (September 27, 1933 – June 3, 1987) was an American actor and artist. Sampson, a Native American Muscogee (Creek), was born in Okmulgee, Oklahoma. Sampson's most notable roles were as "Chief Bromden" in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and as "Taylor the Medicine Man" in the horror film Poltergeist II. He had a recurring role on the TV series Vega$, as Harlon Twoleaf and starred in the movies Fish Hawk, The Outlaw Josey Wales and Orca.

Sampson appeared in the production of Black Elk Speaks with the American Indian Theater Company in Tulsa, Oklahoma where David Carradine and other Native American actors like Wes Studi and Randolph Mantooth starred in stage productions.

Sampson was also an artist. His large painting depicting the Ribbon Dance of his Muscogee people is in the collection of the Creek Council House Museum in Okmulgee, Oklahoma. His artwork is currently displayed online by The Kvskvnv (“kuskuna”) Association.

In an interview in TV Ontario's series Film 101, “Hollywood Asylum, Explored or exploited?”, film actor Brad Dourif (who played Billy Bibbit in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest) stated that Sampson had been imprisoned for a crime he did not commit. After he was pardoned, after serving ten years, his release came without apology or compensation. Sampson reportedly observed the cast on set and noted, based on behavior, that only he and Dourif truly understood what it meant to be institutionalized. In need of a heart and liver transplant, he died on June 3, 1987, of post-operative kidney failure and pre-operative malnutrition problems. Sampson was 53 years old. He was buried in Hitchita's Graves Creek Cemetery.

An actor, William "Will" Sampson was born in Okmulgee, Oklahoma, on September 27, 1933, to Wylie and Mabel Lewis Sampson, who were full-blood Muscogee/Creek Indians. A multi-talented child, Will Sampson was interested in nearly everything around him. Self-taught, he began painting at an early age and ultimately became a successful painter of Western art. Fascinated by the rodeo world, he made many friends among the cowboys while he worked at becoming a capable, competitive bull rider. During service in the U.S. Navy he had an opportunity to learn to fly a plane, but he was never officially a Navy pilot. He also tried oil field and construction work, but it was Sampson's art that was to drastically change his life. At a height of six feet, four inches, he presented an imposing figure that was difficult to ignore. He was noticed at an art show and offered the role of Chief Bromden in the 1975 Academy Award–winning film One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest (a role reprised in 2000 by his son, Tim). His performance earned recognition and acclaim, a Best Supporting Actor nomination, and the respect of the film-making community.

Sampson's career lasted only twelve years, but during that short period he played in several major motion pictures, including Firewalker (1986), Poltergeist II (1986), Orca (1977), and The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976). He also acted in a number of television series such as Vegas (1978, starring Robert Urich), in which he played the recurring role of a character named Two Leaf. He received a nomination for a prestigious Genie award from Canada's Academy of Cinema for his portrayal of old Fish Hawk in the film Fish Hawk (1979). During his too-brief career, Sampson helped to open many show business doors for American Indian media professionals. He was among those responsible for establishing the American Indian Film Institute in 1979. In 1983 he founded and served on the board of directors of the American Indian Registry for the Performing Arts. Will Sampson died on June 3, 1987, in Houston, from scleroderma, a condition he developed after a successful heart-lung surgery.

founder of the American Indian Registry for the Performing Arts (1983)

He was married more than once. The number of his wives, and the identities of most of them, and which children were born to which wives, has yet to be discovered.


view all

Will Sampson's Timeline

September 27, 1933
Okmulgee, Okmulgee County, Oklahoma, United States
July 5, 1958
Muskogee, Muskogee County, Oklahoma, United States
November 12, 1974
Yakima, Yakima County, Washington, United States
June 3, 1987
Age 53
Houston, Harris County, Texas, United States
Graves Creek Cemetery, Hitchita, McIntosh County, Oklahoma, United States