Devoted husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, war hero, mentor, community leader Tommy J. Fulcher Jr., passed away on January 28, 2020.
Born in Oklahoma City, OK on May 11, 1944, Tommy was the second of ten children born to Tommy and Betty Fulcher. At an early age, he fought for the survival of himself and his siblings. At two years old, his family moved to Otay Mesa, a neighborhood in San Diego. At the age of 12, Tommy was thrust into the role of caregiver for his siblings. To ensure the survival of himself and siblings, he stole vegetables from local gardens. A neighbor realized Tommy’s and his siblings’ dire circumstances and contacted social services, which placed them in a Children’s Home until arrangements were made for their aunt to take custody a year later.
At 16, Tommy returned to Oklahoma City where he ran afoul with the law. The judge gave him the option of either going to jail or enlisting in the Army. He chose the latter. It was in the Army where Tommy began to turn his life around. Stationed in Korea, Tommy rose to the rank of Sergeant in just a few years, while also becoming the base middleweight boxing champion. Recognizing his remarkable intelligence and leadership skills, the base Colonel recommended him for acceptance to Officer Candidate School. He went on to become a distinguished graduate of the school ranking 5th out of 147 graduates, even though he only completed the 9th grade, while most of the other graduates had a college degree. Suddenly, he was a second lieutenant at the age of 21 and served during the height of the Vietnam War leading troops as a company commander. He was awarded two bronze star medals, including one for his heroic actions in leading his troops out of an alley after being ambushed and facing heavy enemy fire. He celebrated the birth of his first son Anthony with his first wife, Kim, and a year later was honorably discharged at the age of 24 due to a catastrophic injury to his leg suffered from jumping out of a helicopter that came under attack during the war.
After his military service, Tommy applied credits earned from testing and his military service to the University of Nebraska at Omaha, which enabled him to earn a Bachelor’s degree in business in just one year in 1970, the same year his second son Paul was born. The next year, at age 26, Tommy was accepted to Harvard Business School, where he would go on to earn his MBA in 1972.
Upon graduating from Harvard Tommy taught at the City College of New York and worked as a director for a non-profit helping female convicts transition from prison to civilian life. He then worked in various private, corporate, and non-profit positions in New York, while raising his two sons Anthony and Paul from his first marriage, which ended in the late 70’s.
In 1978, Tommy accepted an executive position in Washington, D.C. where he met the love of his life Gail who he married in 1980. In 1981, Tommy, Gail and his two sons moved to San Jose after he accepted the Chief Executive Officer position at Economic and Social Opportunities (ESO), a non-profit organization focused on community development with an emphasis on helping low-income individuals acquire self-sufficiency. A year later, Tommy’s third son, Tommy J. Fulcher III, was born.
Over the next two decades while working at ESO, Tommy appeared to be everywhere, while volunteering on nearly two dozen boards and commissions in Santa Clara County, including, but not limited to, Santa Clara County Planning Commission, Santa Clara County Airports Commission, Santa Clara County Redistricting Committee, Santa Clara Valley Urban League, Inc., State Bar of California Legal Services Trust Fund, Good Samaritan Medical Foundation, San Jose Police Chief Advisory Committee, San Jose Conservation Corp, and Boy Scouts of America, many of which he served as chairman. He was also President of the San Jose/Silicon Valley NAACP and the first person from a non-profit and first African American to head the San Jose/Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce.
Tommy was a well-known leader respected in almost every sector of the community, including government, corporate, non-profit, and education. As a valued voice in the community, he was very generous sharing his time, not only volunteering, but also mentoring scores of individuals, many of whom would go on to become influential leaders in their respective fields.
Tommy also had other talents not widely known by others, including earning his student pilot license, sailing credentials and General Contractors License, which he used to start a construction company after his retirement from public service.
He leaves to cherish his memory his wife Gail, sons Anthony (Christine), Paul (Norma) and Tommy III (Elena); brothers Paul, Mark, Nolan, Monroe and Bertrand; sisters Gladys, Debra, Hazel, Yolanda and Joeretta; grandchildren Paul Jr. (Eloise), Brandon, Adriana; great grandchildren Ariana, Paul III; and a host of nephews, nieces, cousins and friends. Tommy joins his sisters Linda, Wanda and Pam and his parents Tommy Sr. and Betty in Heaven.
Private services will be held in his hometown of San Diego, CA, on February 12, 2020, but the family is currently planning a memorial service that will be held in San Jose, CA within the next few weeks, which will be open to all. The date and time of the memorial service will be posted on Tommy’s memorial Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/In-Memory-of-Tommy-James-Fulcher-Jr-101326941448676
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