Thomas M. Stewart Obituary
Thomas Michael Stewart, a former reporter and government spokesman, passed away on December 11, 2020 in Sulphur Springs, Texas, where he had made his home since his retirement 24 years ago. He was 87.
A memorial service will be held in the spring to allow his many out-of-state family and friends to attend.
Tom began his reporting career in 1956 as a Hartford Courant “obit man.” After two years of writing up the details of people’s lives, he joined the New Haven, Connecticut bureau of the Associated Press. His principal beat for the AP was the Connecticut Legislature. When the AP closed its New Haven bureau in the mid-1960s, Tom transferred to its Washington D.C. bureau. He covered the Treasury Department as well as major events in the city, such as the riots following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King.
Tom changed jobs once again in 1969 when he joined the British wire service Reuters. For the next ten years, he had two beats: the United States Department of Justice and the United States Supreme Court. In that era, the Court sent decisions stuffed into pneumatic tubes down to the reporters in the basement pressroom as the justices read the decisions in the majestic courtroom upstairs. The wire service reporters scrambled to put the pages in order, digest the decisions as quickly as possible, and file the story. Tom covered the Justice Department throughout the Watergate scandal, and as the dean of the pressroom, he was the leadoff questioner at the press conference after the Saturday Night Massacre.
While Tom was working as a reporter in Washington, he became very active in the National Press Club. By the end of his reporting career, he was the Chair of the Board of Governors of the National Press Building Association. He also was very involved in the Newspaper Guild, serving as a shop steward when he was at Reuters.
At the end of the 1970s, Tom switched sides. He became a spokesman for one of the very government departments he had covered – the Department of Justice. He took reporter calls around the clock, and he drafted and edited the department’s press releases. He finished his career in the 1990s at the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Tom was born in Chicago on January 28, 1933. He grew up playing in the alley behind the family’s three-flat in the South Shore neighborhood. When his father, an attorney for the Immigration and Naturalization Service, was transferred to Cleveland to help naturalize new citizens at the end of World War II, Tom moved to Lakewood, Ohio. He finished high school in Kansas City, Missouri.
He received a journalism degree from the University of Kansas, where he became a lifelong Jayhawk basketball fan. He graduated in 1954, and immediately married fellow KU graduate Anne Hyde. Almost immediately after that, he was drafted into the United States Army.
Tom’s first wife Anne passed away in 1991. Tom remarried in 1996. His new wife, Carolyn Keys, resided in Sulphur Springs, Texas, so Tom retired from government service and moved there in 1996.
Tom was a man of strong liberal principles, formed in a family that fed hot meals from their kitchen door to the men riding the railroads during the Depression, and forged during a career reporting on the events of two tumultuous decades. Tom also had an irreverent sense of humor. He and his two older brothers were incorrigible punsters when they were together. He entertained his children and grandchildren with funny tales from his own childhood.
He was a hit with kids, even teenage girls in his daughters’ girl scout troops, whom he led on spelunking, white water rafting and backpacking trips. In his later years, he and friends in Sulphur Springs created Camp RonnaDonnaJerryTombo for kids to enjoy Lake Elberta in Sulphur Springs.
Tom was the guy who organized the “prepare for the wurst” work barbeques and who worked the phones all of his life to maintain relationships with friends and family. Indeed, his second wife Carolyn was the widow of his college buddy, Clarke Keys. Tom also was a talented singer who got his start in men and boys choirs. A lifelong vegetable gardener, he became a master gardener shortly after his arrival in Texas, where he also was involved in the local Meal-A-Day program and served as past president and board member of the Elberta Lake Club. He also was a serious hiker and backpacker who performed trail maintenance crews with the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club.
Tom is survived by his wife, Carolyn, his three daughters from his first marriage: Elizabeth Jane Stewart (Joseph Pignatello) of Hamden, Connecticut; Alice Freeman Stewart (Kevin Swanson) of Thetford Center, Vermont; and Kathleen Anne Stewart (Barry Wood) of Centreville, Virginia; two grandchildren: Clare Swanson and Connor Pignatello, his stepdaughter Betsy Levenson (Kenny) of Houston, Texas, his stepson Scott Keys (Amy) of Sulphur Springs, six stepgrandchildren: Kelly Keys, Blake Irving, Grant Levenson, Bailee Keys, Katie Levenson and Hunter Coleman; and one great-grandson, Trenton Irving. He also is survived by his brother Robert Bruce Stewart of Cincinnati, Ohio and numerous nieces and nephews.
The family wishes to thank all of the nurses and therapists who helped Tom during the last few months of his life. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club or the Sulphur Springs Symphony League.
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