Thomas Sims "Tom" Erwin
1945 - 2019
City of Oaks Cremation
4900 Green Road
Raleigh, NC
Thomas "Tom" Sims Erwin


Thomas "Tom" Sims Erwin by all measures was an extraordinary human being. A modern renaissance man, lover of architecture and history, music and fine art, city planning and great literature, politics and the law. Tom had a great eye and a keen mind; he wasn't merely an observer of life - he was fully immersed about everything and everyone His respect for others shone through like a beacon of goodwill and endeared him to all who knew him.

Born in Des Moines, Iowa in 1945, he was a preemie and spent the first months of his life in the hospital. His mother, Sara Frances Erwin dubbed him "the miracle child." The family moved to Raleigh when he was in high school, and he vividly recounts coming over the hill and arriving in the Southern city he would come to love and call home. His father, Frank Sims Erwin, had deep connections to the south, and instilled an appreciation of its history and culture in Tom.

Tom graduated from Broughton High School in 1963. He received his undergraduate degree from Harvard, and then returned home to attend law school at UNC Chapel Hill. His matriculation was delayed however when he agreed to manage the NC presidential campaign for Eugene McCarthy in 1968. It was during that time he met his future wife Pamela Sue Pomeroy and began a family.

Tom started his law career defending the environment. One of his first clients was environmental and civil rights activist Jim Wallace, two time Mayor of Chapel Hill and UNC Professor. They became long time and close friends. Among his most significant accomplishments include securing land for the Cane Creek Reservoir in Orange County and successfully forcing safety concessions from Carolina Power and Light when it announced plans to build four reactors at the Shearon Harris nuclear plant. (Only one was built.)

He was involved in many important Raleigh civic planning efforts, and provided a strong influence in the re-design of the Hillsborough Street corridor. He was recently named by the League of Conservation Voters as a N.C. Environmental Champion.

Tom made his mark on Raleigh's oldest neighborhoods and was famously known for moving a historic home, threatened by developers, from its original site on St. Marys street to its present location on College Place in Cameron Park. He was a major force in city politics, encouraging and supporting candidates, and fighting to keep Raleigh's schools from segregation. His appreciation of history and progress gave him a unique ability to understand the nuances of place-making and he spent many hours on efforts to make Raleigh a better community.

Tom was the father of three children, Kate Erwin of Canmore, Canada, Jack Erwin of Brooklyn, New York and James Erwin-Wilde of Raleigh. He beamed with pride when he spoke of them, proud of their accomplishments and the good people they had become.

Tom is survived by his daughter Kate and her partner Paddy Jerome, his youngest son James Erwin-Wilde and his mother Rachel Wilde along with his eldest son Jack Erwin and his wife, Melissa, and their two daughters Adeline and Corrina.

The family wishes to thank all his wonderful friends who have supported them.

Services will be held at Christ Church on Wednesday August 14th at 11 am.
Published by The News and Observer on Aug. 12, 2019.
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6 Entries
A friend from college, intelligent, kind, full of enthusiasm, more Southern ("suthrun") than Robert E. Lee. The last time I saw him was the day after Robert Kennedy was killed. It was a different time, in some ways a different country. Rest in peace, dear friend.
Michel Choban
October 1, 2019
I am sorry to learn of Tom's passing.... We enjoyed exchanging emails re: Griffin-Mullis genealogy since early 2015. I hesitate to bring this up, but that year I loaned Tom my copy of MULLIS MELANGE since he had not been able to find a copy for purchase. I would deeply appreciate it if someone in the family would return that book to me. Tom was a true Renaissance man with his wide-ranging knowledge of history and the Arts, Again, my sincere condolences for your loss, and mine.
Art Mullies
September 22, 2019
We will so miss Tom. He was a delightful and interesting man and devoted Father. We loved seeing him at Christ Church. His love of all things related to history was so interesting. We were out of town when he died and missed the obituary. Kakie and George Yelverton
Kakie and George Yelverton
August 26, 2019
I enjoyed getting to know Tom as a fellow parent of students at Wiley Elementary, and Ligon Middle. He was a very supportive father of James, always attended school events, and was interested in success for all of the kids. I also enjoyed discussing planning, development, and city policy with Tom. Condolences to all.
Steve Gurganus
August 14, 2019
From the Gilbane Building Company construction team at Wiley Elementary, our sincere condolences. It was such a pleasure to meet Tom. We will miss his visits and his passion for sharing history and knowledge.
Paul Pierron
August 14, 2019
I am heart broken, I adored Tommy.So smart and handsome. I have missed seeing him at Fresh Market since he left Raleigh. My sorrow is for his family now. God Bless you Tommy, Rest in Eternal Peace. Broughton Class of 1963.
Pat Yearby Wheeler
August 12, 2019
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