Tom O'Connor Jr. is the great grandson of Tom O'Connor [I] the original Irish immigrant who came over from Wexford, Ireland in 1834 as part of the Power-Hewetson land grant colony. While going to school in Victoria, Tom spent every summer on the Melon Ranch following the cow crowd as soon as he was old enough to ride. Ranching is the O'Connor legacy and Tom was an O'Connor. "It's just, well it was something just never entered my mind, was I going to ranch, or what. It was just, was I gonna breathe…." When in 1942 his brother, Dennis [II], was drafted into World War II, and his father was in ill health, young Tom had to take over the entire ranching operations for the O’Connor family. He worked throughout the war with only one eighty-year old ranch hand and a ten-year old boy to help him. It was a monumental task to feed a division of soldiers from the ranch during the long war. At this time the ranches were not yet modernized with good roads and modern machinery and telephones. There were times when he would have to vaccinate 10,000 head of cattle by himself and yet was scorned for not being in the military. As the war came to a close young Tom, with early help from his mentor, Louis Power, long-time O'Connor foreman, presided over a rapidly changing mechanized landscape; electricity, the pick up truck, oil, and the returning soldier/cowboy all made for new challenges. In the 1950s he and his helicopter pilot, Rufus Rogers, pioneered working cattle and running ranches from the air.
His success is well documented by a thriving legacy and a region-wide respect amongst ranchers and cowboys alike. Not atypical for ranchers, Tom had an artistic side, showing up in his paintings and his love for roses as well as his porcelain bird collections. His greatest artistry, however, was his knowledge of cattle and their breeding. "You are trying to create an object: here is the perfect cow, that is the criteria you go for." But for Tom, cattle were just an excuse to own the land "loving the land most is no contest" His legacy, the land, is for his heirs. "Ranching is the very basis, foundation, rock that my life is built on".