Betty Bradshaw, Alvin Benesh, Mary Smith, Debra Guerra, Bruce Buchanan,
Fred Blackwell
Tom had been an avid falconer for over 30 years and excelled as a longwinger,
flying peregrines for the previous 20 years. He got an early start with wildlife.
When he was 4 years old, he helped nurse an injured screech owl back
to health. This led to a lifelong interest in preserving and re-introducing
endangered species.
Born in Oklahoma, Tom grew up in Fort Worth, received both his B.S.
in Wildlife Management, and M.S. in Animal Behavior Psychology from
Texas A&M University. He moved to Abilene in 1972 and began his career
at the Abilene Zoo as General Curator and Zoo Supervisor. He became
Zoo Director in 1987. During his tenure, an education building, clinic and
commissary facilities were remolded. Giraffe exhibits, polar bear dens and
pools, and a herpetarium center were improved and initiated. He established
an Avian Research Center through the 1970s and 1980s. This research resulted
in noteworthy accomplishments: the first captive breeding of secretary birds,
trumpeter hornbills, Marchs palm vipers, Angolan colobus monkeys, and
thick-billed parrots. Tom was proud that he was one of the first three projects
to successfully produce captive bred Golden Eagles – the progeny going to
In the mid-1980s, Tom began a project which became his career achievement:
The zoos impressive, much-acclaimed, award winning “Discovery Center. He
worked day and night on this visionary building and its purpose to educate
the public on the importance of habitat conservation “from one’s backyard
to throughout the world. He went so far as to create an important habitat or
rest area for migrating Monarch Butterflies!
Tom was an exceptionally creative and sensitive man. His love and
understanding of all living things was enormous. He was an accomplished
herpetologist and a Bonsai enthusiast. His world, however, revolved around
falcons. He was the first to breed peregrines in the State of Texas in the early
1980’s and was consulted by Texas Parks and Wildlife on many wildlife issues,
including falconry. Tom frequently attended NAFA meets and was a staunch
supporter of the Peregrine Fund and its restoration efforts.
A loving son to his gracious mother, Betty Bradshaw, Tom was devoted to and
is survived by his lovely wife, Mary, who opened their home and entertained
many falconers over the years.
Words cannot express the void he leaves and how Tom will be
missed by his many friends.
(Jim Ince)
Tom graduated from Texas A&M with a Master’s
degree in Animal Behavior Psychology
Tom had a lifelong interest in preserving and
re-introducing endangered species.
Tom’s career at the
Abilene Zoo as Director
included remodeling
facitlies, initiating
exhibits, establishing an
Avian Research Center,
and the highlight: the
Discovery Center project.
The Legislature
honored Tom for
creating one of the best
little zoos in Texas.
More than a zoo,
Tom created a
habitat of gardens