Obituary: Col. Houston T. ‘Terry’ Hawkins, Ret. USAF – June 14, 2021

Terry Hawkins of Los Alamos, New Mexico—faithful disciple of Christ; devoted son, brother, husband, father, and grandfather; distinguished USAF veteran; Cold War patriot; and strategist and innovator—began his journey home early in the morning on June 14, 2021. Ultimately, he died from complications related to an immunotherapy treatment for metastatic kidney cancer that he had received in February 2021. At the time of his passing, his loving wife of 55 years, Martha Butts Hawkins, was by his side.

Terry was born in Seneca, South Carolina to the Reverend Thomas “Houston” and Mary Elaine Moore Hawkins. Shortly after his birth, his father enlisted in the US Navy and was deployed to the Pacific Theater during WWII. Terry’s paternal grandparents, Silas Drayton and Rular Ann McKee Hawkins, helped Mary raise him during Houston’s absence. Terry grew up in the tiny mill village of Newry, South Carolina, alongside his youngest uncle and aunts in a faith- and joy-filled family.

Terry was the eldest of three children born to Houston and Mary. He and his brother, Roger, and sister, Rachel, were taught to love God and to serve others in accordance with His will. Throughout his 80 years and following much professional and personal success, Terry was steadfast in his faith and unwavering in his commitment to the Lord. His success did not change him, and his kindness, humility, and gentle spirit were testaments to his faith. Terry always preferred to turn the spotlight into a floodlight to shine upon those who were fortunate to have met him along the journey. At the end of his life, he assured his family that God would take care of him and that he was looking forward to being reunited with those who have preceded him in death.

Terry graduated from Seneca High School in 1959 with honors and attended Clemson College (now, Clemson University) as a Chemistry undergraduate student and member of the ROTC program. He worked several part-time jobs and lived at home so that he could afford to attend college. He completed his BS in Chemistry in 1963 and was a Distinguished Military Graduate of Clemson. He was commissioned upon graduation and was stationed at Wright Patterson Air Force Base (AFB) in Dayton, Ohio. It was during his return home on leave that he asked Martha—the youngest daughter of Stephen and Helen Knox Butts, and whom he had known for most of his life—on a date. That date sparked a beautiful romance and Terry and Martha were married on October 3, 1965.

In 1967, Terry was deployed to Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan to serve in the Vietnam War. During his year of service in Southeast Asia, he led a reconnaissance avionics unit and was a technical advisor to the Commander of the 313th Air Division on reconnaissance matters.

Upon his return to the US, Terry and Martha moved to several different military installations as he advanced through the ranks as a USAF Officer. The couple were stationed at McClellan (Sacramento, California) and Patrick (Cocoa Beach, Florida) AFBs. During these years, the couple welcomed two daughters, Heather and Holly, and forged lifelong friendships with other military families. While at McClellan, Terry completed a degree program in law through the LaSalle Extension University. While at Patrick AFB, he developed his skills as a radiochemist with the Air Force Technical Application Center, performing thousands of radiochemical analyses of nuclear debris and developing new forensic technologies and methodologies. Terry was then promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and the family moved to the Washington, DC area, where he completed three consecutive assignments.

From 1979 to 1983, Terry was the leader of the Defense Intelligence Agency’s Nuclear Energy Division where he also served on the Joint Atomic Energy Intelligence Committee and co-chaired the Department of Defense’s Hard Target Kill Committee. He subsequently served as the Special Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Air Force Nuclear Matters until 1987. In this capacity, he advised Secretaries of Defense (SecDef) Caspar Weinberger and Frank Carlucci on decisions pertaining to USAF nuclear weaponry, prepared the SecDef position paper on nuclear winter, and led foreign assistance programs pertaining to hardening against nuclear effects. Finally, after transferring to the Defense Nuclear Agency in 1987, he led the formation and growth of the Defense Threat Reduction Office (now the Defense Threat Reduction Agency). He retired from the USAF as a Colonel after 25 years of service. Soon after, Terry joined the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) where he continued his service to the nation for more than 30 more years.

Terry was a senior-level manager and technical leader at LANL who led several organizations through challenges resulting from significant technical challenges and dynamic change. Throughout this stage of his career, he led major technical programs aimed at assessing, detecting, preventing, and reversing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the use of those weapons by international terrorists. He served as deputy and division leader of both the International Technology and Nonproliferation and International Security divisions at LANL. Additionally, he served as an acting director of the LANL Office of Counterintelligence.

At the time of his passing, Terry was a LANL Senior Fellow assigned to the Principal Associate Directorate for Global Security. He concurrently served on the Advisory Board of the American Center for Democracy, New York, New York; as a Distinguished Research Fellow with the Institute of Physical Science, McLean, Virginia; and as an advisor for the Marshall Institute for Interdisciplinary Research, Huntington, West Virginia. Terry was previously the Director of the LANL DoD Programs in the Office of the Associate Director for Threat Reduction.

As an internationally recognized expert on modern terrorism, particularly terrorism involving the potential use of weapons of mass destruction, Terry served on the Presidential Panel on National Infrastructure Protection. He delivered invited lectures worldwide on this topic. For his efforts, he received the Aviation Week & Space Technology 2000 Laurel Award and two Valley Forge Freedoms Foundation Medallions. Most notably, he received the Chief Justice Earl Warren Medallion, the highest honor granted by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to non-CIA persons, for his work in counterterrorism.

Terry received numerous awards and recognition for his work including two Defense Superior Service Medals, the Legion of Merit, two Air Force Superior Service Medals, the Air Force Commendation Medal, and numerous service medals, including the Humanitarian Service Medal, the Korean Defense Medal and the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm. From his tenure with the USAF, he holds patents in graphite fiber reinforcements and super hard-structures.

Terry was a Deacon and adult Sunday School teacher at White Rock Baptist Church in White Rock, New Mexico, for more than three decades. He served as a member of the J. Robert Oppenheimer Memorial Committee for many years. He and Martha traveled internationally with a close group of Los Alamos-based friends and enjoyed their time in the US with their four grandchildren.

Terry is survived by his wife, Martha, aunt Lucille Hawkins Sanders, aunt Jean Hawkins Roper, brother Roger Hawkins (Marcia), sister Rachel Hawkins Bolt, daughters Dr. Heather Hawkins Erpenbeck (Gregory) and Holly Hawkins Saporito (Nick), four grandchildren, Eli Erpenbeck and Charlotte, Sawyer, and Harper Saporito, and numerous cousins, nephews, nieces, and lifelong friends. Terry was preceded in death by his grandparents, parents, uncles, several aunts, in-laws, sisters and brothers-in-law, and grandson, James Christian Erpenbeck.

Services for Col. Houston T. “Terry” Hawkins will be conducted at 11 AM on Wednesday, June 23, 2021 at the Davenport Funeral Home Chapel, West Union, South Carolina. Visitation will be at 10 AM, one hour prior to the funeral service. The interment will follow at the family plot at Oconee Memorial Park, Seneca. Thereafter, friends and family are invited to Poplar Springs Baptist Church, Walhalla, for a reception honoring the memory of a son, brother, husband, father, grandfather, uncle, cousin, friend, and a true disciple of Christ.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks those wishing to honor Terry’s memory to consider contributing to the J. Robert Oppenheimer Memorial Committee (JROMC) in his name. A scholarship will be established in honor of Terry. Contributions may be sent to:
JROMC, P.O. Box 220, Los Alamos, NM 87544