Tom was born in San Antonio, Texas and raised in a traditional Catholic family, which taught him the value of compassion at an early age. He graduated from Alamo Heights High School and enlisted in the United States Air Force shortly thereafter.
After his discharge from the military, he immediately joined Cesar Chavez's Texas Farmworkers Union campaign. His pay was room and board, $5.00 a week and all the menudo he could eat. In his two-year tenure with the Farmworkers Union campaign, he had many coordinating responsibilities including the organizing, along with others, of the Grape Boycott in San Antonio. He was arrested several times along with other Farmworkers organizers for picketing outside HEB grocery stores. Once, in the Fall of 1972 he was driven from the San Antonio Produce Terminal by gunfire for attempting to organize warehouse workers. During this time, he also published a bi-weekly underground newspaper, the San Antonio Gazette.
Through all threats and dangers, Tom remained steadfastly
committed to the plight of the American worker.
Upon leaving the Farmworkers Union campaign, Tom was recruited by the SEIU to organize hospital workers in Denver, CO. Two years after this endeavor, he was in Milwaukee, WI working as a business agent for an independent union that represented Wisconsin Gas and Wisconsin Power employees.
The common thread in his work within the union movement was faith. Tom frequently worked with priests, imams, ministers, and rabbis on the picket lines. In noticing this particular pattern in his work with the unions, Tom ultimately decided to answer a different calling. In 1985 he entered the Chicago Theological Seminary, an Christian ecumenical American seminary, one of several seminaries historically affiliated with the United Church of Christ. It is the oldest institution of higher education in Chicago. While at seminary, Tom organized the 1988 Congress on Religion and Politics. Featured speakers at this event included Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun (a progressive Jewish interfaith magazine based in California), and Jim Wallis, an evangelical Christian writer best known as the founder and editor of Sojourners magazine.
After leaving seminary, Tom moved to southern Wisconsin, settling in Lake Geneva. Here he worked as the executive director of the Southeastern Wisconsin Communities Organized for Public Service, a faith-based ecumenical organization dedicated to supporting farmers and the rural communities in Walworth, Racine and Kenosha counties. During his time with this non-profit, he organized and founded the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Lakes in Elkhorn, WI, where he served as the congregation's first minister.
It was there in Lake Geneva where Tom had his only other attempt in electoral politics. He won a place on the Lake Geneva school board, unseating a twenty-year incumbent. Soon after the election, the Lake Geneva paper ran with a story that Tom had mentioned that Greenpeace had linked the school board’s Chicago-based trash removal vendor to organized crime. It didn't take very long before he was subjected to harassment, intimidation, and threats. After a school board meeting packed with members of the trash removal vendor, Tom had his tires slashed. He eventually arrived at his home to find it broken into and trashed. When his tires were slashed again the following week, Tom thought it best to return to his roots.
Having vacated his seat on the school board, Tom returned to Texas and settled outside of Austin in Manor. For the next decade he worked in Manor and East Austin building affordable housing through a faith-based nonprofit affiliated with St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Manor, where he also served as the Parish Social Minister. He build 10 new homes and repaired over 50 homes in Manor as well as repairing and rehabbing over 100 homes in East Austin through the Austin Metropolitan Ministries' Hands on Housing Program.
In 2004, at the urging of 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 unfortunately never saw completion. He was tasked to organize a community development bank, Azteca Community Bank, to serve the residents of East Austin. The FDIC ultimately refused to provide insurance, declining the bank charter application, primarily due to the fact that Tom's group refused to place representatives from Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase, and Bank of America on their board of directors. Less than a year later, all three wound up being named as major players in the financial crisis of 2007-2008. Despite the project's failure, it could have been far worse had they followed the FDIC's recommendations.
Needing a change of pace, Tom and his wife Lety eventually decided to move to Manzanillo and opened a wine bar and jazz club. However, soon after opening the bar, Tom's mother fell ill and he moved back to San Antonio to take care of her as she'd been placed in hospice care. Shortly after his mom’s death, Christus Hospice asked Tom and his wife if they would be interested in taking care of other hospice patients. They said yes and they have continued to do for the last seven, going on eight years, at what is now known as Ann's Place. From May of 2015 to January of 2016, Ann's Place also served as a U.S. Veterans Administration Medical Foster Home.
In March 2017, Tom's wife, Lety Wakely, a native of Mexico, became a U.S. citizen.