Bob Hampton led a vivid life - Hurst mayor, Tarrant County commissioner & Cold War spy

Gordon Dickson
·4 min read

Bob Hampton lived a life of public service as a former Hurst mayor and Tarrant County commissioner — and he had an interesting past that included time as a Cold War spy.

He died Monday after a brief illness at age 89.

“He started his adult life as a counter-intelligence officer in Germany during the Korean War,” his son, Fort Worth attorney Carter Hampton, said in an interview. “He went to his grave never admitting he had ever been in East Germany. He was a loyal soldier, and I teased him about it.”

Hampton was born Nov. 4, 1931 at his family’s home in Azle. He had four brothers and two sisters.

His father operated a general store with an ice house in Azle, but he lost the store during the Great Depression and the family moved to a farm, Hampton remembered during a recently recorded Hurst oral history project.

He graduated high school at age 16, in 1948. He then attended schools now known as Weatherford College, Texas Wesleyan University and the University of North Texas, where in 1951 he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in public school administration and a minor in math.

He enlisted in the Army and originally underwent infantry training, but scored well on the Armed Forces Qualification Test and was sent to counterintelligence school in Maryland.

He served as a field agent and special investigator with top secret clearance for several years.

Hampton loved his time in counter-intelligence for many reasons, said Sue Hampton, his daughter-in-law.

“He didn’t have to wear a uniform. He got to wear a business suit and hat and tie,” she said, adding that he often moved about the southern half of the French occupation zone in southwest Germany in an executive car.

“The exciting part was he had a brand new, black Opel Kapitan sedan,” she said. “He said it was hell on wheels.”

Hampton retured to North Texas in 1957 and bought a house in Bedford, then moved to Hurst in 1960.

At the time, “there were practically no houses north of Bedford-Euless Road,” he said in the oral history.

He worked for many years at Bell Helicopter, where he was a group engineer in the research and development department and helped design the Bell JetRanger OH-58 Kiowa helicopter.

He and his wife, Annette, bought a Hurst jewelry store from the retiring owner and operated it for about 10 years. He said the most luxurious item he sold during that time was a 15-carat diamond ring, which fetched $35,000.

“That was the largest diamond I ever handled,” he said.

Hampton became interested in local government, and served as a Hurst planning and zoning commissioner from 1960-62.

He then was elected to the Hurst City Council in 1963 and served until 1965, when he moved to Fort Benning, Ga., for his work at Bell Helicopter. He returned to North Texas and served again on City Council from 1968-70, when he was elected mayor.

He served as mayor until 1980.

“I enjoyed the challenge of trying to keep things on course,” Hampton said during the oral history. “One of the things I decided early on was that I can’t be a jack of all trades. I’m going to concentrate on the budget, transportation and water — and the bond election for the library.”

During his time as mayor, Hampton served on the executive board of the North Central Texas Council of Governments, which is federally recognized as the Dallas-Fort Worth region’s official planning body. He said he was particularly interested in a proposal to create a transportation authority that could spend money in both Tarrant and Dallas counties.

Hampton won a seat on Tarrant County Commissioner’s Court, where he served from 1985-1996. He continued to focus on transportation and mobility projects.

He pushed for the county to build higher-quality roads, and to spend the money on higher-quality road equipment. Previously, he said, the county would only make minor repairs to roads that needed major work, a frustrating process that Hampton and others called “patching patches.”

In addition to his wife of 66 years, Annette Hampton, and son Carter Hampton, other survivors include: son Dean Hampton, daughter Jeanna Smith and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Services are pending, family members said.

Hampton wished for his body to be donated to UT-Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, but because Hampton had a relatively mild case of COVID late last year the donation could not be accepted, family members said.