Thomas "Tom" Chandler began his legendary legal career after graduating first in his class at Arizona Law in 1946. Upon graduation, Tom set up a solo shop. Six years later, he and Charles McCarty, now deceased, started the private practice that was the predecessor to Chandler, Tullar, Udall and Redhair, one of Arizona's leading law firms.
According to a recent Arizona Daily Star article, "Two University of Arizona graduates - the closest of friends - came to be regarded as possibly the state's best lawyers.
One, Morris K. Udall, went on to serve for 30 years in Congress, run for president and be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor.
The other, Thomas Chandler, stayed in Tucson, practicing law and earning praise from everyone from an ex-governor to former aides of national political figures."
Chandler's practice skills were local legend, even early on, said former Arizona Law Dean Charles Ares, "I practiced law with Tom's good friend and sometimes adversary Morris Udall. They were very close. It was a marvel to watch them try cases against each other."
Best known for his work on civil cases, Chandler also handled a number of criminal cases in the years before the office of the public defender was established.
Last year, during a lunchtime talk to law students, Tom talked about several of his memorable cases, including a case for the City of Tucson in which he represented Tucson in its successful effort to condemn and purchase the Citizens Utilities Water Co. He talked of negotiating a end to a strike at the San Manuel copper mine. Although he never mentioned it, rumor has it that, during the strike, Chandler, who represented the mine, knew many miners were hurting financially. So he arranged for the miners and their families to eat free during the strike at his two Tucson restaurants.
Apart from his own practice, Tom Chandler made his mark in the Tucson legal community by being involved in a wide range of professional activities. Beyond that, though, Tom was a friend and a mentor to countless lawyers and judges.
"He was one of a kind. We are a better community because of him. His life and work has had an influence on so many lives. He truly was a legend," Dee Dee Samet '63.
Tom was also active in politics. In 1938 -- at the age of 17 -- he led the largest delegation of Young Democrats to the state convention in Mesa, spurring in a lifelong passion for working in the political and public policy arena.
He served as the Southern Arizona coordinator for John F. Kennedy's Presidential race, and also played important roles in campaigns for Morris Udall, Jim McNulty, Bruce Babbitt, Raul Castro, and Terry Goddard.
In fact, his influence extended across the state and region. As a member of the Arizona Board of Regents from 1976-1984, he helped to hire presidents at all three state Universities. Dedicated to education and youth causes, he co-founded the Arizona Adopt a Classroom Project, which provided assistance to more than 2,000 teachers, and was a founding member of the Tucson Conquistadores, who have now raised more than $26 million for Tucson's youth sports. Tom was also a founding member of the original Legal Aid organization.
Tom's service to the College of Law was equally exemplary. For more than six decades, he served as an advisor to the College, its deans and many of its faculty. He served on the National Board of Visitors and was a member of many 'kitchen cabinets' and college committees, where he offered advice on advancing the institution and its students. He frequently counseled students on their career paths and challenges, encouraging them to pursue lives of community service and compassion.
He was generous to the College and its students with his time, insight, and resources. In 1980 he established the Dannie Lee Chandler Memorial Award, named for his mother, who had encountered difficulties in her free exercise of religion and speech. The award continues to benefit graduating law students with a demonstrated commitment to free speech advocacy. In 1999, the students of the James E. Rogers College of Law, with the support of family and friends of Tom Chandler and Judge Earl Carroll, created the Chandler/Carroll Public Service Award,which provides exit scholarships to students who share Tom's passion for public values and pursue careers in public sector law.
His life and his values have touched the lives of many of us in the Arizona Law community. A few celebrate his life with these thoughts.
"Tom Chandler was a legend in his own time. As one of the first Arizona Fellows and Regents to the American College of Trial Lawyers he was a role model of integrity, kindness and effective advocacy for all lawyers. Despite his enormous success and stature he was the most humble man I ever met. My favorite Tom Chandler story is when he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the State Bar several years ago. There was an entire dinner planned around his receiving the award. Following a 20-minute video of his life story there was a 30-minute spot on the program for him to give his acceptance speech. Tom walked to the podium and said, "I really don't understand why I am receiving this award. There are many more that are more deserving. Thank you," and then he sat down. The audience and emcee. were stunned and befuddled. Those that knew Tom well were not. It was classic Tom Chandler."- Ted Schmidt '77
I met Tom when I was a law student. One of the faculty members thought that Tom and I should know each other. The faculty member introduced us and Tom invited me to attend a deposition that he was taking. I spent hours just visiting with him. He completely captured my imagination and I became his lifelong admirer... Tom would laugh if anyone ever suggested that he was perfect. And of course-I was proud to be one of his friends.
Tom was an immensely complex individual, an immensely complex human being, widely admired in the bar as one of the best lawyers in our part of the country. Completely honest and straightforward. He devoted most of his career to representing insurance companies and brought to practice complete candor and great legal ability. He was a wonderful general practitioner of law. Recently a well-known plaintiff's lawyer said to me that the civility level of the practice of law in Tucson was largely influenced by the way Tom Chandler practiced law. He cared about people who were powerless.
Charles Ares, Dean 1966-1973
"Taking the measure of a man as complex as Tom Chandler is no mean feat, largely because one of his strongest characteristics was that he was in some ways largely uncharacteristic. A lawyer's lawyer to be sure as many in the bar and otherwise sought his counsel, he consistently brought an unusual degree of intelligence, common sense, and, quite often, humor to bear on whatever task he undertook. Although his political views may have been predictable, he was so unpredictable in many other ways, whether it be some matter confronting the Arizona Board of Regents, a client, a mistreated member of our community, or even his law firm. The fact he experienced poverty himself growing up during the Great Depression and was a frequent witness to discrimination all his life perhaps steeled within him an unrelenting resolve always to deal with others honestly and fairly. Possessing such an attitude, he was quick to observe redeeming qualities in others that were often neglected by those not molded by his experiences. Tom practiced law mainly during an era when attorneys frequently charged fees on the basis of what they could live on and their clients could live with, the latter often weighing more heavily in the balance. Responding to the needs of others, he was wise in his counsel and respected in his life. Tom's friends are many, all of whom would agree that it was a distinct privilege to be counted among them. He will be sorely missed, but most certainly not forgotten-his memory will remain indelible."
Roger Henderson, Dean 1977-1983
"Tom Chandler was simply the best a lawyer can be --indisputably one of the best the College of Law ever has produced in its nearly 100 year history. Beyond his formidable intellect, his wizard-like mastery of law, his unsurpassed storytelling skills, and his profound respect for his profession, Tom had wisdom, ethical courage, and a generous heart. He radiated good judgment and a firm sense of right and wrong. Tom Chandler was a true compass in a world where too many lose their way. Tom never did. I never met anyone like him, and do not expect to ever do so again."
Toni Massaro, Dean 1999-2009
Given who Tom was and the impact he has had, I am certain that many of you have stories of your own that you would like to share. I invite you to send in your stories to firstname.lastname@example.org. We will post them on the web and keep them in our archives forever preserving the memory of Thomas S. Chandler.
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At the "Conversation with Tom Chandler" last February 13, about two dozen students--and a dozen faculty and staff, including Deans Ares, Henderson and Massaro--listened in awe as Tom spoke about a just handful of the matters he had dealt with over the years, each of which had a major impact on the future of Tucson, and of Arizona.
The stories were unadorned, with Tom playing down his role in each, and noting the critical importance or leadership from others, whether it was members of the state legislature or executive branches, opposing lawyers, or clients, whether those he was directly representing or the clients on the other side.Yet no one could come away without an appreciation--not for what Tom claimed, but from what he said, and the wisdom and humor with which he said it-of the role Tom played in making each significant and improbable result come to pass.
As the discussion unfolded, and the students around the table asked questions, they leaned forward to listen more closely, to revel in the presence of this man who illustrated with his intelligence, his judgment and his manner what a great lawyer can be. As one student said to me after the gathering, "it was an honor to meet Mr. Chandler, and I want to know...how can I become a lawyer like him?"
That is a question that Arizona Law students and alumni would be wise to ask themselves for generations to come: How can I be a lawyer like Tom Chandler?