One of Arkansas’ most well-known auctioneers has died.
Tom Blackmon Sr. of Little Rock died Monday from Lewy body disease, said his son, Thomas Blackmon. Tom Sr. was 78 years old.
“He’s been fighting it for about seven or eight years now,” his son said. “It was pretty mild starting out.”
Thomas Clark Blackmon Sr. was born March 1, 1940, in Stuttgart, the son of Eddie Blackmon Sr. and Ruby Blackmon.
Tom Sr. grew up in Stuttgart and DeWitt. He lived in De Kalb, Texas, and Cleveland, Miss., before moving back to Arkansas in 1969 to take over Blackmon Auctions, which his father founded in 1938.
Blackmon Auctions has an office in Little Rock and auction yards in Lonoke and Muskogee, Okla.
The company has conducted auctions in all 48 contiguous states, said Thomas Blackmon, who took over the day-to-day operation of the company a few years ago as his father’s illness progressed.
The company has auctioned farm equipment, railroad locomotives and duck boats.
“We’ve never pigeonholed ourselves into one industry,” Thomas said.
In 2003, the Blackmons did bankruptcy auctions for Consolidated Freightways, a trucking company based in Vancouver, Wash. They sold 57,000 items over a seven-month period in 58 auctions in 48 states.
Every year since 1949, Blackmon Auctions has conducted a five-day farm-equipment auction in Stuttgart called The Backgate Auction.
Thomas described his father as a “social chameleon” who was as comfortable with millionaires as he was with auto mechanics.
“He wore cowboy boots every day, but he wasn’t a cowboy,” Thomas said. “He loved to go to New York and to Aspen, Colo. He was always himself. He didn’t do anything to impress somebody else. He did it because he liked it.”
Tom Sr. also wore a silver-belly Stetson cowboy hat, his son said. After many years, he finally wore the hat out and bought another one just like it. But then the company quit making that exact hat. So every December, the family would wrest the hat from Tom Sr. and ship it off to Stetson.
“They’d clean it and make it better for him and overnight it back,” Thomas said.
Every December, during the week without his hat, Tom Sr. pretty much stayed in the house, his son said.
Thomas said his father was a devout Christian who would talk freely about his faith.
“He was never preachy about it, but he had a way to bring it into conversations,” said Thomas. “He did it in a very unassuming, nonconfrontational way.”
Tom Sr. was inducted into the Arkansas Auctioneers Hall of Fame in 1988, said Shannon Hunter of Mena, who is president of the Arkansas Auctioneers Association.
“He was a leader in the Arkansas business community as well as the auctioneers community,” Hunter said. “He was very well-known by many auctioneers, not just in Arkansas but across the country.”
Billy Hartnedy, who has worked at Blackmon Auctions for 28 years, said Tom Sr. would sing between auctions, or “on the turn” from one row of items to another.
“Auctioneers, we do not like silence,” Hartnedy said. “Silence means you are not working and therefore are not serving your customers. … So he would sing on the turn. Thomas will do it, too. He’s got a bit of singing ability from his dad.”
Hartnedy said Tom Sr. had charisma, energy and passion for people and business.
“Tom showed me how to befriend someone who had none,” Hartnedy said. “He was a friend to those who didn’t have any friends. He was very, very gracious when it comes to that kind of thing. People said he loved everybody. He didn’t just love them because they were at his auction. He really cared for people.”
Besides his son Thomas, Tom Sr. leaves behind his wife, Bonnie, and daughter Katherine Carroll of Little Rock.
State Desk on 02/14/2019
Print Headline: Tom Blackmon Sr., Arkansas auctioneer whose work spanned country, dies at 78
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