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Tom Thomas '63 May 10, 2021 3:10 PM updated: May 10, 2021 3:24 PM

Tom Max Thomas
November 23, 1941 - October 31, 2020

Tom Thomas died October 31, 2020, fighting to stay alive as ferociously as he had fought for his family and clients during his lifetime.

Tom was born in Wichita Falls on November 23, 1941, to Brady and Agnes Thomas, two weeks before the start of World War II. His father served as a Naval gunnery officer on a transport ship in the Pacific, surviving eleven ocean crossings, while his mother helped the war effort by working at a high security helium extract factory.

After the war, Tom’s parents moved around West Texas, finally landing in Odessa, where Tom honed his survival skills working summers on oil rigs in 100 degree heat and blinding dust storms, wearing jeans tucked into heavy work boots in case he ran into a rattlesnake taking refuge from the heat in the rig’s shadow. All of this combined to create a tough man’s man, one who had no patience for laziness, excuses or whining. When selecting a college, there was never really any doubt that he would go to Texas A&M, then an all-male school in which every student was in the Corps. He graduated with a degree in accounting, took a job at IBM, and then started night law school classes at SMU. He found his stride analyzing legal concepts and transferred to the University of Texas Law School. He enlisted in the United States Navy Reserves, and was called to active duty during the Viet Nam War serving in the JAG Corps.

Tom was the rare person whose passion and talent coincided in the practice of law. A masterful trial lawyer and tactician, he had a creative, brilliant mind that could tease new applications out of dusty legal principles to forge cogent, winning arguments. This skill landed him in Forbes magazine by winning the landmark case of Farah Manufacturing v. State National Bank of El Paso in which, for the first time, tort claims were successfully applied to oppressive lending practices. That case sealed his status as one of the premier trial attorneys in the country.

Along the way, he had four children – Tom II, Amanda, Jennifer and Tiffanye. He loved them unreservedly and strove to instill in them the same West Texas values his parents had given him.

He played as hard as he worked, rafting unmapped rivers with National Geographic crews, flying his own planes as an instrument rated pilot, honing his skills on the golf course with the same discipline that he applied to the practice of law, having bicycles built for his 6’4” frame to use on his annual cycling trips through Montana, fly fishing in the Belize flats and icy Alaskan rivers, and building his own motorcycle from the ground up. He had a fascination with performance cars, driving everything from Corvettes to Ferrari’s to BMWs, and raced at the BMW Racing School oval.

He shot straight, expected the same in return, and never backed away from a challenge. He refused to tiptoe around sensitive issues, addressing them head on and expecting others to do so as well. In his world there was only one way to do things – the right way - and he had no patience for those who took shortcuts. He lived unapologetically, following his own path, unimpressed with other’s opinions but staying true to his own character. But if you needed someone in your corner, there was no more powerful advocate.

With his height, intellect and uncompromising values, Tom created an intimidating presence, at least until you caught him in an unguarded moment with his beloved pugs. Then you finally saw the last piece of Tom – the huge heart and compassion hidden under the brusque West Texas exterior that drove his fierce advocacy for his clients, his friends, and his family.

Tom was preceded in death by his parents, Brady and Agnes Thomas. He is survived by his wife, Beth Ann Blackwood; his children, Tom Thomas II, Amanda Thomas, Jennifer Thomas and Tiffanye Thomas; his grandchildren Hanley and Hunter Thomas and Brin Cobb; and his great grandchild Zane Cobb.

Services will be held at Sparkman Hillcrest Funeral Home, 7405 W. Northwest Highway, Dallas, Texas, at 3:00 p.m. on November 7, 2020, with a reception to follow. COVID precautions will be taken, including social distancing and masks. Memorials can be made to DFW Pug Rescue of Dallas.

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