Thomas Laurence Farmer, whose Washington career in public service and private law practice spanned 63 years, died February 5, 2015 at his home in Cleveland Park surrounded by his family. He was 91 years old. The cause was neuro-degenerative illness.
Thomas Farmer combined private law practice with a passion for politics and international affairs. He first came to Washington in 1951 where he worked for the CIA for three years as a Covert Operations Officer. He returned to Washington in 1958 as an Associate of the New York law firm of Simpson, Thacher and Bartlett and to work in John Kennedy’s presidential campaign. Appointed by President Kennedy as Chairman of the Advisory Board of the National Capital Transportation Agency from 1961 to 1964, he helped lead a crucial battle that prevented interstate highways from bisecting Washington.
From 1964 to 1968, he worked as the General Counsel for the State Department’s U.S. Agency for International Development, and contributed to the establishment of the Asian Development Bank. From 1977 to 1981 he served as Chairman of the Intelligence Oversight Board during the Carter administration. From 1970 to 1994 he was partner in the law firm Prather, Seeger, Doolittle and Farmer.
Born in 1923 in Berlin, to an American father and a German Jewish mother, Tom Farmer came with his parents to New York City in 1933. He graduated from Great Neck High School in 1940 and from Harvard College (A.B. 1943), where he was a member of the Editorial Board of the Harvard Crimson. He served in the U.S. Army from 1943 to 1946 and worked as a member of the Military Intelligence Division of the Combined Chiefs of Staff, Washington. He then read Law at Brasenose College, Oxford (LL.B. 1948) and at Harvard Law School (LL.M. 1950).
Tom Farmer was deeply involved in developing relations between the United States and Germany in the Postwar era. In 1983 he helped found the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies as a Director and Secretary-Treasurer, and was a Trustee until his death. In 1994, with Henry Kissinger and German President Richard von Weizs??cker, he helped found the American Academy in Berlin, served as its Founding Chairman until succeeded by Richard Holbrooke, and continued as a Trustee until his death. In 1993 he became the only non-German appointed to the Treuhandanstalt, the “Trust agency” of the Federal Republic of Germany after reunification in 1990, and helped implement privatization of the state-owned coal industry in the former East Germany. He received the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany in 1997.
He is survived by his wife, Wanda Walton, his three children: Daniel, Sarah and Elspeth, and five grandchildren. A prior marriage to Elizabeth Midgley ended in divorce.*