NO. 17709 • 6 Oct 1927 - 25 Jun 2001
Died in Arlington, VA
Interred in Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, VA
THOMAS ADAM AUSTIN III was born at reveille at Ft. Benning, GA, to COL Thomas A. Austin, Jr., and Hazel Hannah Austin. Growing up an 'Army brat', Tom had the Army in his blood from his early youth. In 1943, he attended the Florida Military Academy to complete the requirements for high school graduation. In 1944, he enrolled at Georgia Tech, and, in 1946, he was appointed to the U.S. Military Academy. In June 1950, shortly after graduating from West Point, he married Elizabeth Louise "Betty Lou" Alexander, his sweetheart for 42 years. He then began a 30 year career that took him all over the world, including Iceland, Spain, Viet Nam, and Panama (twice).
Following his graduation from Command and General Staff College in 1962, Tom became an enthusiastic linguist. He studied Spanish at the University of Madrid and, in 1963, returned to USMA as an instructor/ assistant professor in the Foreign Language Department. In 1966, he attended the Armed Forces Staff College and subsequently was sent to Ft. Bliss, TX, to study Vietnamese. Afterwards, from 1967 to 1968, he served as a Senior Province Advisor, III Corps, in the Republic of Viet Nam. In 1968, he commanded a battalion at Ft. Benning, GA, and in 1969 he was sent to the Pentagon for two wonderful years in the office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations.
After completing the Army War College, Tom returned to Panama as the military group commander to the Ambassador of Panama. He was acquainted with Jimmy Lakas, the President of Panama, and General Omar Torrijos, the dictator. He also worked with key American officials. Ambassador Robert M. Sayre, Governor David S. Parker, and GEN William Rosson, Southern Command, relied on Tom’s intimate knowledge of the Guardia Nacional. Tom was the right person at a critical time in Panamanian/U.S. History; he spotted a devious lieutenant colonel in the Guardia and warned U.S. officials to keep a close eye on him. That person, the infamous and notorious General Manuel Noriega, was deposed during Operation Just Cause in 1989.
In 1975, Tom returned to the Pentagon to work in the joint arena and the National Military Command Center. In 1978, he was assigned to Ft. Dix, NJ, as the post chief of staff and deputy post commander, an assignment he loved because it placed him with soldiers one last time.
In 1964, Tom received a master's degree from Middlebury College, and in 1972 he earned a second master's degree, this one in public administration, from Shippensburg University. His military awards included the Legion of Merit with four oak leaf clusters, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the Vietnamese Cross for Gallantry, National Defense Service Medal with star, and the Parachutist and Combat Infantryman Badge.
Tom often boasted that he was an atypical Infantry officer because he never drank coffee, played golf, or fired a shot in anger. However, he was fiercely competitive and loved squash, handball, and racquetball. Intimidation was his ally, and he sometimes used his 6'1," 228-pound body to block his opponent’s vision on the court.
Everyone who knew Tom remembers his ever present 3"x 5" cards, on which he noted birthdays and special occasions, appointments, medications, and prayer requests. His priorities were God, country, and family.
In 1980, Tom retired as a colonel, and he and Betty Lou returned to their home in Alexandria, VA. Following open heart surgery in 1981, Tom began 20 years of volunteerism. He belonged to and met regularly with three men's prayer groups and was active in the National Prayer Breakfast, where his mastery of Portuguese and Spanish made him a valuable asset. He also served as a board member of the Ft. Belvoir Officer's Club. Tom visited the Oak Meadow Nursing Home weekly to chat with and read to the elderly shut ins. These visits, often with one of his grandchildren, brightened the day for everyone, and he continued them for nearly 20 years, bringing hope to many.
Tom's loyalty extended to his West Point classmates. He was program chairman for the monthly class luncheons in DC and the class scribe for several years. In retirement, he and Betty Lou also often visited their four children and 16 grandchildren at their various assignments around the globe.
After a valiant battle with cancer, Betty Lou died on 4 Apr 1992. In October 1994, Tom married Macon Fooshe, widow of classmate Jim Fooshe, and they were married until his death in June 2001. Tom cherished Macon and her children and learned a great deal about society and life in "Ole Virginia." Jim and Tom had been roommates at West Point, and Tom had served as a pallbearer at Jim’s funeral in 1976. He became the stepfather to Jim’s children, sharing with them his love for the Lord and his love of sports.
Tom brought joy to those who knew him and inspired loyalty in them. He added a sweet melody in this world. Wherever Tom worshiped, he sang in the choir. For years, he sang in the choir at the Post Chapel at Ft. Belvoir and then at Cherrydale Methodist Church in Arlington.
In addition to his wife Macon, Tom is survived by his four children: LTC (ret.) Thomas A Austin IV, ‘'75; Elizabeth S. Austin, R.N.; Nell Horn, wife of COL Carl Horn ‘'76; and LTC (Ret.) David Austin; and sixteen grandchildren. He is also survived by two stepchildren, Carter Fooshe Weeber and James Cabell Fooshe, and three step grandchildren. Additionally, he is survived by a brother, COL (Ret.) William H. Austin, USAR, and a sister, Hazel "Honey" Baker. The first chapter of Philippians says, "being confident of this very thing, that He who hath begun a good work in me will complete it until the day of Christ," and Tom's life exemplified those words. Well done, Tom, thou good and faithful servant! Death has been swallowed up in victory!
- His son