Monday, August 04, 2008

Orange County PR pioneer Tom Wilck

Sad news in my email inbox tonight. Tom Wilck has died. I was lucky enough to work with this public relations genius for a short time. If people of Tom's quality and personality were the norm (rather than the exception) in that field, I might still be working for an agency somewhere today. In my experience, Tom was a kind and reasonable man who was astonishingly good at what he did. A room full of people could sit around for hours searching for the right words for a slogan, press release or article - And Tom would pop his head in for a moment and drop the perfect words at our feet.

The photo above shows a young Tom Wilck with his boss, Walt Disney, and his soon-to-be first wife, (Walt's secretary) Tommie. Here's the obituary I received from the O.C. Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America:
C. Thomas Wilck, [APR] longtime communications and public affairs executive who served Walt Disney as his personal public relations consultant, has died of kidney cancer. He was 75 and passed away July 24 at home in Irvine with his wife of 19 years, Nadine, at his side. He was diagnosed earlier this year.

Throughout the '60s, Wilck worked directly with Walt Disney and his senior staff on many of his most important projects, including the planning and announcement of Walt Disney World in Florida, and the formation of the California Institute of the Arts. From 1973 to 1985, Wilck served as Vice President of Corporate Public Affairs for the Irvine Company, leaving to form Thomas Wilck Associates representing an impressive roster of corporate clients including the Walt Disney Company, Allergan, the Irvine Company, Alaska Airlines, the Lusk Company, Taylor Woodrow Homes, Ford Motor Land Development and others. He sold his company to Nelson Communications Group in 1995 and remained an equity partner for five years.

President Nixon called him to Washington shortly after his election to serve as Assistant Administrator of Congressional and Public Affairs for the Small Business Administration. In 1972 and 1973, Wilck was Deputy Chairman of the Republican National Committee with major campaign and media responsibilities, including press relations for the 1972 Republican Convention.

He was a graduate of Santa Monica City College and UCLA, and spent two years on active duty with the U.S. Marine Corps in 1950 and 1951.

Wilck is survived by Nadine, a fundraising and public relations consultant, step-daughter Jacqueline Leigh James Parker, son in law Jeff Parker, and granddaughter Bailey Leigh James, 12, all of Rancho Santa Margarita, California.

Memorial services will be held in the East Room at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum at 4:00 pm on Thursday, August 21, followed by a reception in the East Room. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions be made to the CORO Foundation at 1000 North Alameda St., Suite 240, Los Angeles, CA 90012, or THINK Together at 2100 E. Fourth St., Suite 200, Santa Ana, CA 92705.

1 comment:

Randy Woods said...

I was so sad to learn belatedly of Tom Wilck's death. I worked with him in Los Angeles in the '60's, and he was responsible for getting me to Washington in the '70's. I was with Insurance Company of North America as a PR guy and Tom asked me to succeed him as Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs at the SBA, which I did. He also recommended me for the White House staff when President Ford became President. He and Tommie were super people, and I shall always be indebted to both of them.