Thomas Edward Grimes, of Ocala, Florida passed away on Wednesday, September 16, 2020 at the age of 84.
He is survived by his longtime friend and devoted wife Joyce Joan Hogsten Grimes; his youngest brother Fred Grimes; his sister-in-law Helen Grimes; nephews John and Jim Grimes, Tommy Pippin, Jennifer Pippin; children Julie Harris, Elizabeth Grimes, Kathrine Grimes Cole, son-in-law Chris Cole; step-daughter, Gianna “Gigi” Demos Madrid, step-son, Mickey Demos; and grandsons Kevin, Caleb, Zachary, Jackson, Matthew, and James.
He was preceded in death by his little, big brother John Martin Grimes and his little sister Theresa Igler.
Thomas was born in Miami, Florida on August 7, 1936 to Fred Thomas Grimes and Elizabeth Schattle Grimes Igler. He was the oldest of the four children. He had great memories of running around Miami with his two brothers in tow, hitchhiking to get around and just having good old- fashioned unsupervised fun. He attended Miami Jackson High School and then proceeded to earn a scholarship to University of Miami to pursue a double major in education and journalism. It was during this time, Thomas got the first taste of his future career by becoming a part time sports writer for his hometown paper the Miami Herald while subsequently holding a position of paid publicity writer and press box statistician covering football, basketball, and baseball for the University of Miami Sports Information Office.
Upon graduation from college in 1958, he briefly taught junior high school English. In January of 1959 he joined the Army and was stationed at West Point, NY. He served in the Sports Information Office for two years, helping to cover and promote Army athletics. Upon discharge from the Army, he taught English again but was quickly pulled back into the realm of sports writing. In 1960, he was hired by the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel to cover the now-defunct AFL prior to their NFL merger as sports editor, a post he held for seven years. During this time Thomas enjoyed covering harness racing at the Pompano Park horse track. His lifelong love of horses and horse racing started years earlier, growing up next to Hialeah Race Track and enjoying a great view of the action just outside the gate from the clubhouse turn. It was during this time he watched and fell in love with triple crown winner Citation. Thomas was a member of several associations related to horse racing and breeding, regularly attended the Kentucky Derby, and even once visited the grave of Secretariat.
Next to horse racing, football was Thomas’s other favorite passion. In 1965, he was hired by the Miami Dolphins as a part time publicity writer and statistician for the now-defunct AFL. Thomas even submitted his choice “The Miami Stars” into the 1965 contest to name the then brand new team. In 1967, after convincing Dolphins owner Joe Robbie the publicity department needed to grow, he was promoted to assistant publicity director. In 1969 he headed West when legendary owner Al Davis made the call to hire Thomas to become an Oakland Raider. During his 18 year tenure with the Silver and Black he held the positions of Director of Public Relations for seven years, Scout in Player Personnel for seven years and as a Senior Administrator for the remainder of his time with the franchise. He helped discover key pieces to the Raiders dynasty including Rod Martin, Lester Hayes and Derrick Jensen. Thomas and his family got to experience the excitement of three Super Bowl victories, not to mention three Super Bowl rings, some of his most prized possessions. The first being the 1977 showdown against the Vikings at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, then Super Bowl XVI against the Eagles in 1980 and Super Bowl XVIII against the Redskins in 1984. Thomas retired from the Raiders in 1987. He was a pioneer in the world of NFL statistics as one of the creators, in conjunction with the NFL, of the statistical flip card which is still a standard in NFL press boxes.
After exploring other career opportunities, Thomas returned to the Raiders again in the early 2000s to help scout new players. During this time Thomas took a trip to the University of Miami in Ohio and found the quarterback the Raiders had always been looking for. After many phone calls to alert Mr. Davis to draft this rising star, his advice was not heeded and thus future Super Bowl champion and Steelers great Ben Roethlisberger got away. Some years later Thomas decided to move on from the NFL, having left an impact on Raider Nation and the league at-large that won’t soon be forgotten.
Along with his colorful career, Thomas was quite the unique person as well. His dry sense of humor and quick wit would frequently catch you off guard. But if you gave it in reverse he would say, “Oh you think you’re a funny one, huh?” Far and wide, you would fail to find anyone that could recall a football game with more clarity than he. He could describe in detail the first half of a college football game played in 1958. His penmanship could have won awards and his memory was a steel trap. He absolutely loved to show people around, especially if he was driving. And for a guy that was shy about his chipped, front tooth he loved to have his picture taken and he would actually pose.
A private memorial and burial will be held on Saturday, September 26, 2020 at 12 pm at Highland Memorial Park in Ocala, Florida where Thomas will be laid to rest next to his brother.
The family encourages those who wish to attend the service to do so simultaneously. To view the service virtually using Tribucast please click this link: https://client.tribucast.com/tcid/994842412
In lieu of flowers please consider a donation in his memory to the Alzheimer’s Association of America.