January 11, 1927 – March 3, 2019
Tom Bass was born in Texas on January 11, 1927, and rode off into the Texas sunset on March 3, 2019.
Tom was a third-generation Houstonian and only child of Mary Lee Scoggins and Thomas Hutcheson Bass, both of Houston. He was pre-deceased by his son Martin Gerard.
Left to celebrate his life well-lived are Tom’s wife, Mary Ann (King), and daughter Patty, son Paul, daughter Rita and Stan Bradberry, daughter Amy Bass-Wilson, daughter Vicki and David Moran, son Bob and Jackie, son Dan and Dani, daughter Laura and Don Gibson, and son David. Tom is also survived by twenty-three grandchildren and two great-granddaughters.
Tom had an active, varied, and at times very public career. He graduated from St. Thomas High School in 1944, and like many men of his generation, he enlisted in the Army with the intent to serve his country during World War II. Fortunately, the war was over shortly after Tom completed his training, and he instead was able to further his education at the University of Texas. He graduated in three years, in 1950, and married his sweetheart, Mary Ann. While Tom worked as a teacher, they started their family. Tom later did graduate study in Political Science, which led him into teaching in that field at Dominican College and the University of St Thomas.
His interest in politics eventually led him to run for public office and he became a State Representative for Harris County in 1963. As a newly elected member of the legislature, Tom was preparing to don a tuxedo in anticipation of meeting President Kennedy at an evening reception in the State Capital on November 22, 1963. The President was assassinated in Dallas earlier that day before Tom ever had the opportunity. He abstained from wearing a tuxedo for the next 39 years, finally making an exception for one of his son’s weddings. During the 1971 legislative session Tom was a founding member of the “Dirty Thirty”: House of Representatives members who put aside party loyalty to successfully force out the presiding Speaker of the House, who ruled the chamber and had become entangled in the infamous Sharpstown stock-fraud scandal. Tom was that rare animal: a politician who put service before ego and self-interest. He worked tirelessly for the promulgation of Civil Rights, leaving the State legislature only after ensuring that the state’s re-districting was done to give a voice to all voters—particularly the previously disenfranchised Black and Latino voters.
After ten years in the State legislature, Tom was elected in 1973 to the Harris County Commissioner’s Court. During his tenure as County Commissioner, Tom led the County in the acquisition of park lands and green belts. The current Braes Heights hike and bike trail was one result of Tom’s efforts during that time. In 1984, in recognition of his flood control efforts while County Commissioner, 115 acres of parkland on 288 South was named the Tom Bass Regional Park.
Tom left the Commissioners’ Court in 1985 and then worked to bring the first 9-1-1 District in Texas to Harris County. In appreciation for all Tom’s efforts on behalf of 9-1-1, the newly constructed Greater Harris 9-1-1 critical call center was named the Tom Bass Building in 2008.
In his spare time, Tom was an Army Reserve Officer. He retired in 1980 as a Colonel after thirty six years of active and reserve service. He became a competitive runner during the running boom of the 1970s and embraced marathon running. He won hundreds of age awards and completed 40 marathons, including three Boston Marathons. He competed in Senior Olympics at regional, state and national levels into his 80s. Beginning in 1976 he served Corpus Christi Catholic Parish as Lector, Eucharistic Minister and on the Pastoral Council.
Despite all of Tom’s accomplishments in his public life, he was at heart a reserved man, happy to let others take center stage. He had friends of all ages and a regular poker group, where they played for the high stakes of pennies. Tom was fortunate to be blessed with extended family, including many cousins, as well as in his life-long friends and supportive public-servant staffs. When asked what his favorite pastime was, Tom would say, without hesitation, “Being with my family— watching them enjoy each other.” He always felt his greatest accomplishment was his family. He and Mary Ann were married for sixty eight years and he never stopped writing her humorous love poems.
Tom’s children remember him for his games of fox-across-the-river, poker, fun-run races and charades. His grandchildren and great-grandchildren remember Tom for his offers of candy no matter what the occasion and his faithful purchases every spring of the Girl Scouts’ thin mint cookies.
The Funeral Mass with be held on March 7, 2019 at Corpus Christi Catholic Church in Houston at 10:30 am with a reception to follow in the parish hall. A viewing and rosary will be held on March 6, 2019 at Earthman Funeral Home on Bissonnet from 6-8 pm. Interment will be private at Texas State Cemetery in Austin, TX.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Casa Juan Diego, PO Box 70113, Houston, TX 77270.
- Visitation Wednesday, March 6, 2019
- Rosary Service Wednesday, March 6, 2019
- Mass of Christian Burial Thursday, March 7, 2019
March 6, 2019
Tim Bass was my teacher in 1973 at the University of St. Thomas when I took the Texas history class so that I could get my Texas teaching certification. (I had New Jersey certification, and we had just moved here. ) His class was fun and I always enjoyed it. We are still in the Houston area and my teaching career was filled with fond memories. Tom Bass was a great teacher, and his political life is a model of decency and wonderful accomplishments.
March 6, 2019
Professor Bass taught me Political Science at the University of St. Thomas in the late 1970's. His Campaigns & Elections class got me actively involved in politics; through him, I met the late, great Billy Carr. I have thought of Prof. Bass often over the years. He exemplified great morality without being self-righteous, and his humor helped his lessons leave a lasting mark. The stories about the "Dirty 30" and his rule against accepting favors and gifts that were not available to everyone still resonate, and bring nostalgic comfort in these much different times. The world has lost one of its consummate Good Guys. Rest in peace, Tom Bass.
March 6, 2019
Mr. Bass was my favorite Political Science professor at the University of St. Thomas. Always prepared, professional, and knowledgeable, Mr. Bass was keenly aware of the diversity of the students in his class and he was careful to include all points of view in class discussions. A gentle and kind soul. Thank you for being a wonderful public servant and teacher.
March 4, 2019
I will miss my sweet Uncle Tom and his quiet ways. I always admired him and was honored to know him.