A tribute to my friend, Tom Drake

Loretta Gillespie

Tom Drake and his best buddy, Miss Minnie


Did you ever wonder if people dance in Heaven? What about pets, do you ever wonder if there are pets in Heaven?

If so, then Tom Drake is jitterbugging his way through the Pearly Gates and down the streets of gold, having earned his reward by the way he lived his life, the way he treated people and the way he served his Maker.

Miss Minnie, his stalwart companion for many years, would have met him there, tail wagging and tags jingling, welcoming him just the way she welcomed everyone who came to his office, guiding them back to the reception area, then, having done her duty, going back to her bed and wait for the next visitor. She escorted the mailman that way for years, never quite sure that he could find the mail drop by himself.

Tom’s many friends and family members, his beloved wife and law partner, Chris, his friends from Montgomery, governors and janitors, and a tall man who is surely allowed to wear his houndstooth hat up there, would have all been there to greet him. He would have had a smile on his face…

It’s hard to imagine Cullman without Tom Drake. He was often seen outside his office, visiting with friends and acquaintances who stopped to pass the time, to shake his hand or to ask his advice. He loved that – dispensing advice, both legal and personal advice. Tom shot straight from the hip. He loved helping people, loved making things happen, loved his family, his friends, his clients and his dog.

Most people know how Tom came to be Miss Minnie’s personal assistant. He inherited her from his wife, Chris. But before that, he and Chris saved Minnie’s life. She was attacked by a pit bull who almost tore her in half. The Drakes paid for her surgery and she became their dog. Most dogs would have died, but love pulled Minnie through, and she repaid it every day of her long and faithful life.

Tom Drake never had the mindset of “I can’t” or “It can’t be done”. It was more like, “Let’s see how we can get this done,” or “We can do this!”

And he somehow found a way around most obstacles, in the court room, on the Alabama House floor, or wherever he went, he was determined and dogged in his quest to be helpful to those who needed and depended on him.

We’ve all heard the old adage, “He would give you the shirt off his back,” and that was Tom, he loved helping people, and it was his mission to help as many as he could.

It is with the deepest sadness that we see him go. To his family, he loved you and was head over heels proud of all of you.

Tom never forgot to inquire after the families of others, an amazing fete when you consider that he knew most everyone in town.

He was an amazing athlete, a lawyer who won some of the largest cases in the state, and a pro wrestler, of which he was very proud.

I happened to be with Tom in his office working on a series about him when the subject turned, as it often did, to Bear Bryant. It came up that Tom had never seen the “Call your Mama” video that Bryant did for the phone company. I pulled it up on his computer.

As the familiar face filled the screen, Tom’s eyes welled with tears as he jabbed his index finger at the computer. “That’s exactly what we heard every day!” he exclaimed. “He always told us how important it was to keep in touch with our mamas and daddies…he told every player that.”

I know that there are going to be days when all of us who knew Tom wish we could pick up the phone and call him. Maybe ask his advice on a legal question or to tell him a joke, or hear one of his stories…I sure wish I could call him today…Rest in Peace, you will be fondly remembered and greatly missed, Tom Drake.

Tom Drake will be laid to rest today, Sunday, Feb. 5, 2017.

Visitation will be from 1-3 p.m. at Vinemont Baptist Church.

Funeral Services will be at 3 p.m. at Vinemont Baptist Church, with burial to follow at Vinemont Baptist Cemetery.

Vinemont Baptist Church is located at 787 County Road 1343.