Tom Wakely

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Tom Wakely

Tom Wakely is a San Antonio Texas activist.


Tom Wakely is a Berniecrat, a term used for those democrats (generally) running for office who have expressed support of former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.[1]

Activist life

Tom Wakely was born in San Antonio, Texas and raised in a traditional Catholic family, which taught him the value of compassion at an early age. He graduated from Alamo Heights High School and enlisted in the United States Air Force shortly thereafter.

After his discharge from the military, Wakely immediately joined Cesar Chavez's Texas Farmworkers Union campaign. His pay was room and board, $5.00 a week. In his two year tenure with the Farmworkers Union campaign, wakely had many coordinating responsibilities including the organizing of the Grape Boycott in San Antonio. He faced several arrests with the Farmworkers staff for picketing outside HEB grocery stores, and in 1972 he was once chased from the San Antonio Produce Terminal with gunfire for attempting to organize warehouse workers. During this time period he also published a bi-weekly underground newspaper, the San Antonio Gazette.

Through all threats and dangers, Tom remained steadfastly committed to the plight of the American worker.

Upon leaving the Farmworkers Union campaign, Wakely was recruited by the SEIU to organize hospital workers in Denver, CO. Two years after this endeavor, he was in Milwaukee, WI working as a business agent for an independent union that represented Wisconsin Gas and Wisconsin Power employees.

The common thread in his work within the union movement was faith. Tom frequently worked with priests, imams, ministers, and rabbis on the picket lines. In noticing this particular pattern in his work with the unions, Tom ultimately decided to answer a different calling. In 1985 he entered the Chicago Theological Seminary, an ecumenical organization and one of seven seminaries historically affiliated with the United Church of Christ. While at seminary, Tom organized the 1988 Congress on Religion and Politics. Featured speakers at this event included Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun (a progressive Jewish interfaith magazine based in California), and Jim Wallis, an evangelical Christian writer best known as the founder and editor of Sojourners magazine.

After leaving seminary Wakely moved to southern Wisconsin, settling in Lake Geneva. Here he worked as the executive director of the Southeastern Wisconsin Communities Organized for Public Service, a faith-based ecumenical organization dedicated to supporting farmers and the rural communities in Walworth, Racine and Kenosha counties. During his time with this organization, he organized and founded the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Lakes in Elkhorn, WI, where he served as the congregation's first minister.

It was there in Lake Geneva where Tom had his only other attempt in electoral politics. He won a place on the Lake Geneva school board, unseating a twenty-year incumbent. Soon after the election, the Lake Geneva paper ran with a story that Tom had mentioned that the school board's Chicago-based trash removal vendor had been linked by Greenpeace to organized crime. It didn't take very long before he was subjected to harassment, intimidation, and threats. After a school board meeting packed with members of the trash removal vendor, Tom had his tires slashed. He eventually arrived at his home to find it broken into and trashed. When his tires were slashed again the following week, Tom thought it best to return to his roots.

Having vacated his seat on the school board, Wakely returned to Texas and settled outside of Austin in Manor. For the next decade he worked in Manor and East Austin building affordable housing through a faith-based nonprofit affiliated with St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Manor, where he also served as the Parish Social Minister. He repaired and rehabbed over 100 homes in East Austin through the Austin Metropolitan Ministries' Hands on Housing Program.

In 2004, at the urging of the parish priest at St. Joseph's, he took on a new challenge to help the low-income community of East Austin, a project that unfortunately never saw completion. He was tasked to organize a community development bank, Azteca Community Bank, to serve the residents of East Austin. The FDIC ultimately refused to provide insurance, declining the bank charter application, primarily due to the fact that Wakely's group refused to place representatives from Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase, and Bank of America on their board of directors. Less than a year later, all three wound up being named as major players in the financial crisis of 2007-2008. Despite the project's failure, it could have been far worse had they followed the FDIC's recommendations.

Needing a change of pace, Wakely and his wife Lety eventually decided to move to Manzanillo and opened a wine bar and jazz club. Though soon after opening the bar, Tom's mother fell ill and he moved back to San Antonio to take care of her as she'd been placed in hospice. Christus Hospice asked Tom and Lety if they would be interested in taking care of other hospice patients after his mother passed, which they have continued to do for the last six years at what is now known as Ann's Place. From May of 2015 to January of 2016, Ann's Place also served as a U.S. Veterans Administration Medical Foster Home.[2]

Congressional run


Texas’ 21st Congressional District, which covers northern San Antonio, last elected a Democrat in 1974. Democratic Socialists of America member Tom Wakely is hoping to change that. Wakely, who manages a hospice for veterans, won the Democratic nomination with 59% of the vote and will face Republican Lamar Smith in the general election.

Wakely is a long time activist who started out as an organizer helping Cesar Chavez organize boycotts. He hopes to combine the energy generated by the Sanders campaign in Texas with the support he has received from unions and progressive organizations to win election in what is often considered to be a safe district for Republicans. His opponent is a climate change denier who chairs the House Science Committee. In November, Tom is hoping to prove that even the parts of the country considered to be Republican strongholds can foster a political revolution. [3]

New Ground

Editor of Chicago Democratic Socialists of America's New Ground Vol. 1, No. 1 - November, 1987 - Tom Wakely.

TARA connection


Tom Wakely enjoys the support and endorsement of the Texas Alliance for Retired Americans.

Tom has been endorsed by the Alliance for Retired Americans because he is committed to protecting and expanding our Social Security program. We must take care of each other.

Gubernatorial Candidate

In 2018 Democratic Socialists of America member Tom Wakely — ran for Texas Governor.[4]