Long-time labor leader Thomas R. O’Donnell passed away Nov. 30 in Livingston, Mont., after leaving his home in New York state, which was destroyed in hurricane Sandy. O’Donnell was 83.
After serving his country in the Navy, he became a member of the Theatrical Teamsters Local 817. He rose to become its president, a position he held for 50 years, retiring in March of this year. An influential figure in the entertainment industry, he pioneered an innovative scholarship fund that enabled the dependent children of members of Local 817 to attend college for free.
“Tom was a pillar of the entertainment labor community and a fixture in helping to strengthen film and television production in New York,” said Jay Roth, national executive director of the Directors Guild of America. “In recognition of Tom’s critical role in upholding the rights of working men and women while encouraging production in New York, the Directors Guild of America presented Tom with the DGA Honor in 1999. After receiving the honor from presenter Robert De Niro, Tom said with his typical humor, ‘There are many others more deserving. However, I do not find fault with their final choice.’”
According to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, “Tommy was a mainstay of the industry and should be credited as one of the driving forces that led to the revitalization of the city’s film industry in the late 1960s and the creation of the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting. Today, the city is a thriving center of film and television production, and it’s thanks in no small part to Tommy’s efforts.”
O’Donnell is survived by his three children, Edward, Thomas J., and Christine, nine grandchildren and one great grandchild.