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Thomas J. Carney

1926 - 2013 | Obituary Condolences
Thomas J. Carney Obituary
Tom Carney, a retired Golden attorney, past president of the Colorado Bar Association, former member of the Colorado Racing Commission and avid sports fan, passed away peacefully at home soon after watching the Super Bowl on Feb. 3. A raconteur, Tom could talk about anything with ease and eloquence. Some might say he got that gift after kissing the Blarney Stone during a family trip to his ancestral home of Ireland when he was 12. Tom was born Oct. 7, 1926, in Philadelphia. At the age of 3, his family moved to Wilmette, a suburb of Chicago, where his father, Thomas Joseph (T.J.), worked as an executive of Sears, Roebuck and Co. Tom had a fortuitous childhood. In 1936, his father took him to the Dallas World's Fair, which was celebrating the Texas Centennial. He recalled that it took six hours from Chicago to Dallas, with two stops in between, on a Chicago and Southern Air Lines' twin-engine Lockheed Electra. Ten-year-old "Tommy," wearing a cowboy hat, was pictured in one of the Dallas newspapers: "It's undoubtedly the best Centennial I ever saw in Texas," he was quoted as saying. Thus began his lifelong rapport with the press -- and how, perhaps, he developed his steadfast policy: Never lie to the media. In 1938, Tom sailed with his family to Europe, where Sears had sent his father to assess whether the company should expand internationally. His father advised against it, predicting correctly that there would be war in Europe. Not long after, his father was promoted to president of Sears. Tom loved going to Chicago Cubs games with his father -- in those days, the Cubbies were serious contenders -- and was a proud, card-carrying member (since 1932) of the Die-Hard Cub Fan Club. (Many years later, he would switch caps from the blue and red of the Cubs to the black, purple and silver of the Colorado Rockies.) Tom's mother, Margret Coughlan Carney, died when he was just 15 years old. Six months later, his father died. Tom's aunt, Anna Carney, became legal guardian. But she had a difficult time keeping track of the teenager, so he was sent to Culver (Ind.) Military School as a junior in the fall of 1942. He graduated on D-Day, June 6, 1944. Tom was drafted into the Army at age 18. He was commissioned a second lieutenant, and assigned to the 351st Field Artillery Battalion in Weisenberg, Germany. He spent two months in charge of a disarmed enemy forces camp in Landau, where he was responsible for 35 German generals, one colonel and 16 Waffen-SS non-commissioned officers. The prisoners eventually were transferred to Nuremberg for war crime trials, which Tom was able to attend. He was discharged from the Army in October 1946. Tom arrived in Colorado in 1947 to attend the Colorado School of Mines, where he pledged Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity. He studied mining engineering, intending to take up an offer to run his cousin's mines in Wyoming. But once he experienced what it was like to be underground, Tom changed his mind. He graduated as a petroleum refining engineer in 1951. While a student at the School of Mines, he met and soon married Patricia Amack. Their son, T.J., was born in 1952. A daughter, Diane, followed in 1955. After two years re-refining motor oil, Tom and a partner sold their business and went their separate ways. A friend convinced him to go to law school, so he enrolled at the University of Colorado and received a law degree in 1956. In the late 1950s, Tom and Leo Bradley, a fellow Mines graduate, and William Johnson opened Golden's second law firm, Bradley Carney and Johnson, above the Ace Hi Tavern in downtown Golden. The firm eventually moved to 1717 Washington Ave. in Golden. Tom's legal career was varied, and included criminal and civil trial work. He spent the last seven years of his practice representing Coors Brewery as the company expanded nationwide. Tom was instrumental in establishing a legal aid office in Jefferson County. He was a member of the Jefferson County School Board from 1953 to 1958; chairman of the Jefferson County Republican Party in the late 1950s; served as county attorney from 1960 to 1963; was Golden city attorney from 1965 to 1973; and was a member of the Colorado Racing Commission from 1973 to 1986. He was active in the 1st Judicial District Bar Association and the Colorado Bar Association, serving as its president from 1976 to 1977. Tom also was the Barry Fey of his day, as one of three promoters who brought the Beatles to Red Rocks Amphitheater in 1964. In 1987, Tom married journalist Mim Swartz -- who would become travel editor at both the Rocky Mountain News and The Denver Post. Tom was a football fanatic, and made small wagers weekly on National Football League games with his friend, Gene O'Malley. He often won the weekly NFL football betting pools he entered at his favorite restaurant, the 240 Union in Lakewood. In recent years, he became fanatic about Sudoku puzzles to keep his mind sharp. Thankfully, it was to the end. Tom is greatly missed by his beloved wife, Mim Swartz Carney; son, T.J. Carney of Golden; daughter, Diane Carney of Chicago; granddaughters Amber Hall of Morrison and Sonia Moen of Burke, Va.; and grandson, Ross Carney of Golden. He also is survived by three great-grandchildren, and spoiled felines Iliad and Odyssey. In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by a sister, Marcia, and a brother, Mel. A celebration of life is pending. Donations in his memory may be sent to the Cat Care Society, 5787 W. 6th Ave., Lakewood, CO 80214, or the Dumb Friends League, 2080 S. Quebec St., Denver, CO 80231. Friends may sign the guest book at
Published in Denver Post from Feb. 7 to Feb. 10, 2013
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