Tom was born in San Antonio and raised in a Catholic family. He is the oldest of six kids.
Tom never knew his mother's mother, his grandmother because she was murdered in Alamo Heights in the early 1930's. His grandfather left shortly thereafter; he never knew him. His mom, an only child, was raised by her grandparents, Tom's great grandparents, whom he say's he remembers with great love. His mother has a half-sister, whom Tom barely knows.
Tom also never knew his father's father. His Dad and his sister, Tom's aunt, were raised in Santiago, Chile. In the late 1930's his grandfather was killed in an airplane crash in the Caribbean. His grandmother left Chile shortly thereafter, moving to San Antonio where she went to work as a civilian employee at Ft. Sam Houston. Her name was Bee and she was a 1960's cold-war spy who traveled extensively though out Europe as a wealthy, American socialite.
Shortly after Tom graduated from Alamo Heights High School in San Antonio, he enlisted in the US Air Force - he was only 17 yrs. old. It was the height of the Vietnam War. After his honorable discharge from the military he returned to San Antonio and immediately joined César Chavez’s Texas Farm Workers Union campaign. Tom's pay was room and board, $ 5.00 a week, and all of the menudo he could eat. He worked for Chávez for a little over 2 years. His responsibilities included organizing the Grape Boycott in San Antonio. He was arrested several times and jailed for picketing outside HEB stores. Among his many strange experiences with the farm workers was an early 1972 episode when he and several other farm worker staff members attempting to organize warehouse workers at the San Antonio Produce Terminal were chased from the facility by gunfire.
During the time he worked for the Farm Workers, Tom also published a bi-weekly underground newspaper, the San Antonio Gazette. It was an explosive and dangerous time in the United States. His offices were broken into numerous times by the San Antonio Police’s ‘Red Squad.’ He was constantly harassed and threatened by the 'Red Squad' and by the mid-1970's he had become a target of CLEAT - the Combined Law Enforcement Association of Texas. On the advice of counsel, Tom closed the paper and moved to Denver, Colorado where he found work with the SEIU organizing hospital workers. Two years after that Tom found himself in Milwaukee, Wisconsin working as a Business Agent for an independent union that represented Wisconsin Gas and Wisconsin Power employees.
The common thread in Tom's work within the union movement and the anti-Vietnam War movement was the faith community. He could always count on a priest, a minister, an imam or a rabbi, to walk the picket line with him or march for peace with him. In 1985, he answered a different calling and entered the Chicago Theological Seminary; an ecumenical institution, one of seven seminaries historically affiliated with the United Church of Christ. While at seminary he organized the 1988 Congress on Religion & Politics. Featured speakers included Rabbi Michael Lerner, the editor of Tikkun, a progressive Jewish interfaith magazine based in Berkeley, California; and Jim Wallis, an evangelical Christian writer best known as the founder and editor of Sojourners magazine.
After leaving seminary, he moved to southern Wisconsin, settling in Lake Geneva. One of his first jobs was working as the Executive Director of the Southeastern Wisconsin Communities Organized for Public Service; a faith-based ecumenical organization dedicated to supporting family farmers and the rural communities in Walworth, Racine and Kenosha counties. During his time with this organization he organized and founded the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Lakes in Elkhorn, Wisconsin, where he served as the congregation’s first minister for two years.
Tom's first attempt at electoral politics, until last year and now, was for the Lake Geneva school board. Tom won, defeating a twenty year incumbent. However, his term of office was cut very short by a slip of the tongue. Tom had mentioned at a meeting of the school board, that at the time was considering the renewal of vendor contracts, that the high school’s Chicago vendor for trash removal had been linked by Greenpeace to organized crime. The following week, the Lake Geneva paper boldly declared “Wakely ties High School Vendor to Organized Crime.”
Two weeks later, at the next meeting of the school board, the room which was normally vacant of spectators was packed with men who worked for the vendor. After the meeting was adjourned, Tom walked out to the parking lot to find the tires on his car had been slashed. When he got home, he found that someone had broken in and had trashed the place. Over the following month, his tires were slashed twice more. The message was clear - leave town and he did.
Tom returned to Texas, settling in Manor, a rural community located east of Austin. For the next ten years he worked in Manor and East Austin building affordable housing through a faith-based non-profit affiliated with St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Manor. He also served as Parish Social Minister at St. Joseph's during this time. In addition, Tom repaired and rehabbed over 100 homes in East Austin through the Austin Metropolitan Ministries Hands on Housing program.
In 2004, at the urging of Father Bob, the parish priest at St. Joseph’s, Tom took on a new challenge to help the low-income community of East Austin, a project that ultimately ended in failure. He was tasked to organize a community development bank, Azteca Community Bank, to serve the residents of East Austin. A bank charter application was eventually filed with the Texas Department of Banking; a hearing was held but the application was denied because the FDIC refused to offer insurance.
The FDIC refused to provide insurance because he and the other organizers of the bank refused to appoint to their board of directors representatives from Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase and Bank of America. Tom and the other organizers of the bank all knew that what the FDIC was demanding of them was not only foolish but an unsafe and unsound demand. Despite the fact that everyone involved in this project lost all the money they had invested in the project it was a wise decision given that less than a year later those very same financial institutions were responsible for the financial crisis of 2007–08, considered by many economists to have been the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Not sure what to do next, Tom and his Lety decided to do something completely different. They sold their home in Austin and moved to the Pacific Coast of Mexico, to Manzanillo. There they opened a wine bar/jazz club and would probably still be there if his mother hadn’t fallen sick. In 2010, Tom and Lety moved back to San Antonio to take care of her; she had been placed in hospice. After she died, Christus Hospice asked them if we would be interested in taking care of other hospice patients. Seven years later, they are still taking care of hospice patients at Ann’s Place - named after Tom's mom.
In May of 2015 Ann's Place became a U.S. Veterans Administration Medical Foster Home. In early January 2016, he and his wife withdrew from the program due to the tremendous amount of bureaucratic hoops he and Lety were continually required to jump through. While they both agree it is a great program, until the VA changes how they operate the program, Tom & Lety will not participate.
This is what Tom has to say about his run for Texas Governor,