Thomas B. Black

August 5, 1932April 9, 2014

Thomas Bentley Black, 81, died April 9, 2014, in Columbus.

A celebration of Tom Black’s life will be held Friday, April 11, at 11 o’clock at First Baptist Church of Columbus, with Rev. Jimmy Elder presiding. The family will receive friends afterward in the church’s fellowship hall.

Born August 5, 1932, in Knoxville, Tenn., he was a 1954 graduate of Baylor University in Waco, Texas. After college, he returned to Knoxville and began working in his family’s snack food manufacturing business. In September 1955, he entered the Army and served for two years before rejoining the family business, which merged with Tom Huston Peanut Company in 1960. In 1968, he and his family moved to Columbus, where he served as executive vice president and COO of Tom’s until he took early retirement in 1986.

He went on to form the TDJ Co., and for the next 12 years operated Baskin-Robbins Ice Cream and Auntie Anne’s Pretzel stores in Columbus. After selling the businesses, he became administrator of the Bradley-Turner Foundation, where he worked from 1998 until his retirement in 2006. A member of First Baptist Church of Columbus since 1968, he served many years as a deacon and several terms as board chair. He taught Sunday school and chaired the building campaigns for two additions to the church.

In Knoxville, he was named Junior Chamber of Commerce Young Man of the Year. In Columbus, he served on the boards of the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce, YMCA, United Way (including campaign chair and board chair), Valley Interfaith Promise, Young Life of Columbus, Pastoral Institute, the Walter Alan Richards Foundation, and NorthStar Industries. As chair of the Columbus Challenge, he was instrumental in the completion of the $100 million-plus campaign to support construction of the RiverCenter for the Performing Arts. He was a recipient of the Jim Woodruff, Jr., Memorial Award from the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce and the Dan Reed Rotary Award for Service Above Self from the Rotary Club of Columbus.

He was a strong supporter of Brookstone School, Columbus State University and Mercer University. He had been a trustee of Brookstone since 1969 and served six years as board chair. In 2012 he was awarded the Brookstone Service to School Award. He chaired the Columbus State University Foundation for two years and was an Annual Fund volunteer, a Patron of Music and a member of the CSU Athletic Fund Board. The university awarded him an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree in 2005. At Mercer, he was a member of the President’s Club and served five consecutive terms on the board of trustees, including a term as chair. He was named a life trustee in 2010. He was instrumental in expanding the Mercer medical school to Columbus hospitals, and he and his wife endowed the Thomas B. and Doris E. Black Endowed Chair in Pediatrics at the school. Mercer honored him with the Louie D. Newton Award for Outstanding Service to the university, and the Alumni Association recognized him with its Meritorious Service Award.

Most important, though, are these words from “Poppy” himself: “I have been blessed beyond all measure with the most wonderful wife God could have possibly given me, and also with the most wonderful daughters, sons-in-law, grandchildren and grandchildren-in-law, and great-grandchildren that any man could have ever asked for. They are such a loving family who all love our Heavenly Father and are trying every day to live lives pleasing to Him. They all also love each other and enjoy so much being together. Our weeks together at the beach, our Thanksgivings and Christmases together, are the highlights of each of my years.”

He is survived by his wife of almost 59 years, Doris; four daughters and sons-in-law, Kathy Stewart (Jimmy) of Greenville, S.C., Cindy Sparks (Jay) of Columbus, Gina Watson (Nathan) of Macon, and Mary Little (Walter) of Birmingham, Ala.; 10 grandchildren, Emily Sparks Palmore (Justin), Jenny Watson Barfield (Carter), Bentley Sparks (Mary), Kate Stewart Fogleman (Scott), Nate Watson, Meg Stewart, Thomas Watson, Mary Nelson Little, Grant Little and Harrison Little; and two great-grandchildren, Will Palmore and Hannah Barfield. He is also survived by two nephews and a niece.

He was predeceased by his parents, Tom Q. and Katherine W. Black, and by his brother, Albert.

The family would like to express its appreciation to his caregivers, Angela Huguley, Candace Mobley, Lolita Hunter, Maggie Williams, and Bertha Harrison, and to Columbus Hospice.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to First Baptist Church of Columbus, Ga., P.O. Box 828, 31902; Columbus Hospice; or other charities.


  • Celebration of Life Friday, April 11, 2014

Thomas B. Black

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Renee and Kermit Griner

April 28, 2014

Cindy, your dad will be greatly missed in this community. We appreciate all his work and support for Valley Interfaith Promise. Our prayers go out for you and your family.

Patsie Brann

April 22, 2014

I was so sorry to read of Tom's death. I worked for him and Mr. Black at Tom Huston when my husband was in graduate school at UT. He was a nice person.

Rick Hancock

April 18, 2014

Dear Doris and Family,

I'm so sad to hear from my mom of Tom's passing. I remember him so fondly from my days of growing up in Knoxville.

Cathy Williams

April 15, 2014

Tom Black was one of my heroes. If not for his heart, NeighborWorks Columbus would not be. He encouraged me to move into the management position and he was a true advocate for adequate housing in Columbus. He was the best.

April 11, 2014

You were a good man!

Victor Feliciano

April 11, 2014

I thank Mr. Black for his wonderful years of service to our VIP Families. He loved hearing we were full. I loved hearing the cheer in his voice when I call him for guidance. See you soon Mr. Black!

April 11, 2014

A moment of reflection.. Tom Black passed at 81...have known, revered, praised, and been blessed by knowing Tom Black for 46 years. A wonderful man, a wonderful family. We celebrate his earthly life , and now his eternal life

April 11, 2014

tom you were a good teammate.
Ron Williams

Philip Little, Sr.

April 11, 2014


My deepest sympathies to you and your family. My prayers are with you.

Cynthia & Thomas Lewis

April 10, 2014

Much love to you, Mrs. Black, our prayers are with you and your family.