Thomas Emmett "Tom" Rickhoff
|Judge of the Texas 289th District Court (Bexar County)|
|Succeeded by||Carmen Kelsey|
|Judge of the Texas Fourth Court of Appeals|
January 1993 – 2001
|Preceded by||Ron Carr|
|Succeeded by||Sandee Bryan Marion|
|Judge of the Bexar County Probate Court|
|Assumed office |
|Born||July 13, 1944|
|Spouse(s)||Carol Mumford Rickhoff (married 1970)|
|Relations||Gerard C. "Gerry" Rickhoff (brother)|
|Parents||Leo John and Lela Doerr Rickhoff|
|Residence||San Antonio, Texas|
|Alma mater||St. Mary's University, Texas|
St. Mary's University School of Law
|Occupation||Attorney, Professor, Judge|
|Branch/service||United States Army|
United States Army Reserve
|Rank||Captain in Army|
Lieutenant colonel in Army Reserve
Thomas Emmett Rickhoff, known as Tom Rickhoff (born July 13, 1944), is a Republican judge from San Antonio, Texas. He was the presiding probate court judge in the lawsuit against billionaire sports team owner and automobile dealer Tom Benson filed by Benson's estranged adopted daughter.
Rickhoff was the unsuccessful Republican nominee for Bexar County administrative judge in the general election held on November 6, 2018. He sought to oust the entrenched Democrat Nelson Wolff, who has held the post since 2001.
Rickhoff was born at the Farragut Naval Training Station in Bayview in northern Idaho while his father, Leo John Rickhoff (died 1974), was serving in the Philippines Campaign during World War II. His mother was the former Lela Doerr (died 2003). Leo and Lela married in 1942 and had six other children younger than Tom: John, Lynn, Jim, Gerard, Mike, and Mary Ann. Leo Rickoff was a trial lawyer for twenty-eight years and a state district court judge in Missouri. Leo and Lela Rickhoff are interred at Resurrection Cemetery in Affton in St. Louis County. Tom Rickhoff was reared in St. Louis but left for Texas to attend college.
In 1966, Rickhoff graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English history from St. Mary's University and in 1969 from St. Mary's University School of Law, both in San Antonio. From 1969 to 1974, Rickhoff was a captain on active duty in the United States Army, including service in the Vietnam War. He was a lieutenant colonel in the United States Army Reserve from 1974 to 1993.
Rickhoff was admitted to the practice of law in 1969 and was from 1987 to 2000 an associate professor of law at his alma mater, St. Mary's School of Law. From 1974 to 1977, he was an assistant United States Attorney for the Western District of Texas. He was also during this period a special trial attorney for the United States Department of Justice, having worked against the Mafia in the New Orleans field office of the Organized Crime and Racketeering Strike Force.
In 1978, Rickhoff was elected district clerk, the first member of his party to hold countywide office in Bexar County since Reconstruction. For his reforms in the office, Rickhoff was named "Politician of the Year" in 1979 by the defunct San Antonio Light newspaper. His brother, Republican Gerard C. "Gerry" Rickhoff, is the current county clerk for Bexar County.
In 1981, Republican Governor Bill Clements appointed Rickhoff as the judge of the 289th District Court in San Antonio. He was elected to a full term in the office in 1982 with 59 percent of the vote, even as Clements went down to defeat statewide at the hands of his gubernatorial opponent, state Attorney General Mark White. Three other Republicans, Roy Barrera, Jr., David Peeples, and David Berchelmann, were also elected to state court judgeships in Bexar County in 1982. In 1986, Rickhoff was reelected judge to a second full four-year with 65.5 percent, the largest share of the vote attained by that time by a countywide Republican candidate in Bexar County history. Unopposed for reelection in 1990, Rickhoff left the 289th Court upon his narrow election in 1992 to the Fourth Court of Appeals. He unseated the Democrat Judge Ron Carr, 291,643 (51.3 percent) to 277,248 (48.7 percent).
In 2001, Rickhoff left the appeals court upon his appointment as judge of the Bexar County Probate Court. He was elected in 2002 to the probate court and has remained there since that time though he faced a tough reelection bid in 2006 from the Democrat Barbara Scharf-Zeldes. Rickhoff collects state retirement from his previous time on the appeals court as well as his $161,492 annual salary on the probate court. In 2014, Rickhoff took off sixty-five days of work, including time for a vacation to Australia and New Zealand. Along with Polly Jackson Spencer, Rickhoff is one of two probate judges for Bexar County. There is no limit on how much time off a probate judge can take each year.
In 2014, Rickhoff awarded $310,000 in insurance funds to Frances A. Hall, who is accused of having in 2013 killed her 50-year-old husband, trucking executive Bill Hall, Jr., with her vehicle while he was riding his motorcycle near his place of work. The woman was outraged over Hall's alleged extramarital affair. Rickhoff made the decision based on the wishes of Hall's adult children.
In February 2015, Judge Rickhoff named former San Antonio Mayor Phil Hardberger and attorney Art Bayern as co-executors of the testamentary trust of Shirley L. Benson, Tom Benson's late wife. The two replace Tom Benson as trustees of the estate. Benson's estranged adopted daughter, Renee Benson, and her two adult children sought to prevent changes to Shirley Benson's trust. She maintained that her father, the owner of the New Orleans Saints and San Antonio Mercedes-Benz, has grown incapable of handling his financial affairs. Benson, meanwhile, appealed Rickhoff's decision to appoint Hardberger and Bayern as co-executors of Mrs. Benson's estate.
On February 19, 2016, Judge Rickhoff approved the appointment of Renee Benson as administrator of the $1 billion Shirley Benson Testamentary Trust, which includes the Lone Star Capital Bank in San Antonio, half of five automobile dealerships, part of a large ranch near Johnson City, Texas, a home at Lake Tahoe, Nevada, an airplane, and cash and other real estate holdings. Benson's attorney said his client after much wrangling and two weeks of mediation chose to settle the dispute so as to live his remaining time at peace and to relieve himself of a hefty tax burden required on those assets.
In 1970, Rickhoff married the former Carol Mumford, who holds a master's degree in social work from Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio. The Rickhoffs have three sons and two daughters. Rickhoff's brothers, Jim and Mike, worked in law enforcement. John Richoff, Jr., is a retired U.S. Postal Service employee. His sister, Lynn, is a university fundraiser; his other sister, Mary Ann, has worked for Drury Inn in San Antonio, and her husband has been deputy director of the Texas Veterans Commission.
Rickhoff is a former commentator for the weekly segment "Eye on San Antonio" on KENS-TV, the CBS affiliate in San Antonio. He is a former commentator too on "Judge Rickhoff On the Law" for WOAI (AM) radio. He has also written various legal publications.
Rickhoff is Roman Catholic (Holy Trinity Parish) and a member of Rotary International. He is also associated with the Christian Pro-Life Foundation, the Bexar County Mental Health Group Home, the Children’s Shelter, and The Salvation Army for Girls.
- "Judge Rickhoff's Bio". tomrickhoff.blogspot.com. August 5, 2009. Retrieved March 2, 2015.
- "Leo John Rickhoff". findagrave.com. Retrieved March 2, 2015.
- "Profiles in Probate Law: Tom Rickhoff". San Antonio Business Journal. November 15, 2009. Retrieved March 2, 2015.
- "History of the Republican Party of Bexar County". bexargop.org. Archived from the original on February 14, 2015. Retrieved March 2, 2015.
- Though Tom Rickhoff was the first San Antonio Republican in countywide office, as early as 1962, San Antonio Republicans elected two justices of the peace, Bob Strickland and Frank Vaughn, and a constable, Bill Hancock, who switched parties and sought reelection as a Republican.
- "Texas general election returns". Texas Secretary of State. November 3, 1992. Retrieved March 2, 2015.
- Gilbert Garcia (October 18, 2014). "Rickhoff's extended vacation on the probate court". San Antonio Express-News. Retrieved March 2, 2015.
- Patrick Danner (August 19, 2014). "Murder suspect cashes in on insurance policy". San Antonio Express-News. Retrieved March 2, 2015.
- David Hendricks (February 5, 2015). "Hardberger named co-receiver of Benson Trust". San Antonio Express-News. Retrieved March 2, 2015.
- Jaquetta White and Ramon Antonio Vargas (February 19, 2015). "Tom Benson to appeal judge's decision to remove him as overseer of Texas trust". Baton Rouge Advocate. Retrieved March 2, 2015.
- David Hendricks, "Benson's daughter controls $1B trust: Judge OKS deal after 13-month legal fight", San Antonio Express-News, February 20, 2016, pp.1, A13
| Judge of the Texas Fourth Court of Appeals
Thomas Emmett "Tom" Rickhoff
Sandee Bryan Marion