Tom O'Connor, Jr., [IV]

March 6, 1915 - August 7, 1996
Role: Rancher
Nicknames: Tommy, Tom, Jr.
Known for: Cattle knowledge, Love of ranching

Tom O'Connor Jr., [IV] 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 O'Connor Melon Creek 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. In talking to him, it was easy to tell that the obscene and ignorant shunning he received during the war deeply hurt him. 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 four-wheel drive jeep, oil, and the returning soldier/cowhand 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 cowhands 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".

Introduction to Tom O'Connor, Jr.

Louise S. O'Connor
Voice of Tom O'Connor, Jr.
Tom O'Connor - You know I never remember I want to be a cowhand, I remember wantin' to be a barn man, like Uncle Jack but of course that's when I was probably five or six or seven or something like that but when we were going down the cow trail on your stick horse we were just as much a cowhand as the real ones, I guess. You know it's something that's never entered my mind was I going to or what it was just was I going to breathe, you know. I never remember any conscious thought I wanna do this, it was just going to. It was just…my name was Tom, I never gave it a thought that my name was Tom I just was going to be what I was, just rancher I guess.


“I never thought in terms of any other way of life. Asking me if I intended to ranch all my life is like asking me if I was going to breathe for the rest of my life. ”

Cryin' For Daylight: Ranching Culture in the Texas Coastal Bend