William Evan “Bill” Sampson was born in January of 1948, in Wilmington, Delaware, and was raised in Virginia. He attended Augustana College, where was invited to join Phi Beta Kappa, elected student body president, and awarded a scholarship to study abroad in Paris. After graduating in 1969, he enrolled at Harvard Divinity School. While at Harvard he became interested in communism and joined the October League. In 1971 he was awarded a master’s degree in divinity. He had become disillusioned by the failure of religious leaders to fight against the Vietnam War, and because of this he abandoned his plans to become a minster and enrolled in the University of Virginia’s School of Medicine. There he met his future wife, Dale Deering.
In 1976 Sampson dropped out of medical school to move to Greensboro, North Carolina, and work with the Workers Viewpoint Organization, later the Communist Workers Party. He found work at Cone Mills White Oak Plant, where he led the White Oak Organizing Committee and worked in the Local 1391. In August of 1977, he and Dale were married.
On July 8, 1979, the CWP organized a protest of the Ku Klux Klan’s presentation of Birth of a Nation at the China Grove, North Carolina, town hall. Feeling the protest was a success, the CWP organized an anti-Klan march and conference for November 3, 1979, in Greensboro. The CWP and protest participants convened that morning at Morningside Homes. At 11:18 a caravan of cars carrying Klansmen and Nazis arrived. After a shot was fired from the head of the caravan, caravan members removed guns from the trunk of one of the cars. In the following eighty-eight seconds, five members of the CWP were killed. During the attack, Sampson hid behind a car and defended him and other protestors with a pistol. He received a fatal shot through the heart.