DURHAM – Many in Republicans circles are mourning the sudden death of one of the party’s foremost workhorses, Tom Stark. Stark served as general counsel and parliamentarian for the party, ran for the N.C. Senate in Durham County, and sported a long resume replete with furtherance of the Republican cause.
Executive Director of the NCGOP Dallas Woodhouse was close with Stark, and spoke to him mere minutes before an apparent heart attack took his life. Woodhouse’s account of Stark’s last hours, and his testament to the kind of man Stark was is sobering. Below, we include Woodhouse’s ‘A Tribute to Tom Stark’ in its entirety.
“Tom Stark, General Counsel for the North Carolina Republican Party, died in his office on Monday December 17, 2018. Words cannot express my deep sadness over the sudden loss of my dear friend.
An announcement about services is pending, but will likely take place this weekend with visitation on Friday (12/21/2018) and services in Durham on Sunday (12/23/2018). The NCGOP will also stage a celebration of his life and dedication to the Republican Party at a later date.
Moments before suffering what appears to be cardiac arrest, Mr. Stark had spoken to me about various NCGOP issues, mainly concerning North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District.
Tom and I had spoken at 6:30pm concerning a memo released by the North Carolina State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement. I suggested he write a public memo concerning the issue. Tom, always was willing to assist the NCGOP free of charge, quickly agreed to the request.
Stark emailed me a rough draft at 9:41pm, and I called him a few minutes later at 9:46pm to discuss what had been written. Pleased with the first draft, I hung up and replied via email: “It is a good start.”
Shortly after receiving my reply, Tom spoke to his wife Roxanne and said he thought he was having an allergic reaction to something he ate. With their house a short drive away, she was in the process of bringing Benadryl to the office when they spoke again and both agreed 911 should be called. Just after 10:00pm, paramedics and Roxanne arrived to find our friend and colleague unresponsive. Paramedics attempted to revive him for an extended period of time, but his heart never regained a beat. He was pronounced dead at roughly 11:00pm.
A man who had given so much to the Republican Party, gave his final moments, his last written words, and his final breath to the Republican cause.
That was Tom Stark.
I could say many things about his deep dedication to the North Carolina Republican Party, how he answered the call – my call – to run for State Senate in a virtually impossible seat in Durham. But he said yes, and he believed despite impossible odds that even if he could not win, the people of Durham deserved to have someone court their vote. He believed in the power of ideas, and he wanted to show all people in his community the respect of competing for their votes.
Tom was a proud Blue Devil, having received both his undergrad and law degrees from Duke University. During law school, he clerked for the Secretary of the Air Force General Counsel. Following graduation, he practiced law in Durham with Newsom Graham, et al. He started his own practice in 1982 and founded the firm Harlow & Stark in 1985 that grew to as many as 12 attorneys. In 1992, Mr. Stark reorganized as the Law Offices of Thomas H. Stark and in 2003 he renamed the practice Stark Law Group. Tom served as legal counsel to the NCGOP for the last several years. He was on the Rules Committee for the 2016 RNC National Convention. He was also the NCGOP nominee in NC Senate District 20 in 2018.
Mr. Stark was an Eagle Scout and served as the local District Chair for the Boy Scouts of America, as well as chairing the Open Spaces and Trails Commission. At his death he was a member of the North Carolina United Methodist Camp and Retreat Ministries Board. Previously he had served on the Board of Institutions for the North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church, and also served as Chairman of the Board for Duke Memorial United Methodist Church.
He worked on every major issue for the party, for free. We spoke most days, often not about politics. His face would light up talking about his wife, his children, and music. He often invited me to his farm on Sundays where he had music sessions with his band mates. When I attended, he made sure my children enjoyed themselves by having them ride his horses.
Tom Stark was my friend. Over the last three years he warmed my heart, made me laugh, made me think, challenged me, made me better. I deeply love Tom Stark.
I lost my dad 20 years ago, at an age like Tom, far too young. The highest compliment my dad could ever pay another man was this:
“He was a man among men.”
I also reserve those words for few. Those who made us better, gave more than they got, helped us grow, and made us laugh along the way.
Tom Stark was a good man, a friend, a fighter for what was right and without question, Tom Stark was a man among men.