Jack E. Childress was awarded the Bronze Star for his Vietnam service.
Jack E. Childress was awarded the Bronze Star for his Vietnam service. (HANDOUT)

Jack E. Childress, a former National Security Agency worker and a Korean and Vietnam War veteran, died Nov. 12 at Bridgeport Hospital in Washington of complications from a fall he suffered at his home in Columbia. He was 90.

Jack Earl Childress was born in Asheville, North Carolina, and raised in Greenville, South Carolina, where he graduated from high school in 1947 and joined the Army.


He was a graduate of the Army Language School in Monterey, California, where he became proficient in Arabic, and was posted to U.S. embassies in Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Egypt and India.

Mr. Childress served in both the Korean and Vietnam wars in cryptology and was decorated with the Bronze Star for his Vietnam service. He attained the rank of sergeant at the time of his discharge in 1968.

He then went to work at the NSA, from which he retired in 1980.

An avid tennis player, Mr. Childress was ranked in the Fort Meade Tennis Ladder and the U.S. Tennis Association Mid-Atlantic Ladder, according to his friend and fellow tennis player, Harvey W. Zorbaugh of Columbia, his legal representative.

“I first met him playing tennis at the Army Navy Country Club in Fairfax, Virginia,” said Mr. Zorbaugh, retired executive director of the National Education Association.

“He was very sharp and had to be if he was working at the NSA,” Mr. Zorbaugh said. “He was an introvert and not really outgoing, but did have a good sense of humor which he did not display very often. He had a penchant for languages.”

He was a fan of Washington Post crossword puzzles, Sudoku puzzles and bridge.

His wife of 50 years, Janet Childress, died several years ago, according to Mr. Zorbaugh.

A memorial service was held Saturday at the Wilde Lake Interfaith Center in Columbia.

There are no survivors.