“A True Gentleman”
In Woodstock, the name “Tom Hazard” is synonymous with the word “gentleman.” He treated everyone with kindness and respect. Tom grew up in Woodstock, his family having come to the area in the early 1800s. In an oral history conducted by Ava Emerson in 1979, Tom recalled the hard work his parents did to provide for his family. His father was a gardener and did lawn work and snow removal, while his mother took in laundry and did cooking, which she then delivered to others. Tom remembered his father telling him: “You may not be rich. You may not have a big house... But... you can be honest.” These words appear to have been a guiding principle that Tom took to heart.
Like a number of the black families in town, Tom Hazard’s family lived on South Street. Growing up in Woodstock, Tom was active in the Saint James Episcopal Church and in the Boy Scouts. Both were affiliations that he maintained throughout his life.
After high school, Tom stayed in the Woodstock area, until enlisting in the Army during World War II. After the War, Tom returned to Woodstock, where he was responsible for the maintenance, set up, and cleaning of a number of apartment buildings and churches, including Saint James Episcopal Church.
Tom also dedicated himself to helping others through his work in various community groups. Over the years, he was recognized for his service with such awards as the Silver Beaver Award (for distinguished service to the Boy Scouts), Citizen of the Year, and Rotarian of the Year. One year, he also had a day named in his honor, “Tom Hazard Day,” by Saint James Episcopal Church in recognition of his years of faithful service.
Tom Hazard always spoke softly and kindly. Ironically, his quiet words, gentle ways, and friendly smile proved to be stronger than words and actions done in anger. One long-time Woodstock resident noted, that the Ku Klux Klan, a white supremacist organization, came to Woodstock and held rallies on Vail Field, but the Ku Klux Klan never caught on here. Why? As the resident explained, there weren’t many minorities living in Woodstock at the time, and no one could ever be angry with or dislike Tom Hazard.