Thomas S. Murphy, beloved husband, father, friend, and legendary broadcasting executive, of Rye, N.Y., died on May 25, 2022, just six days shy of his 97th birthday.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., he often spoke of penny candy, stickball, the Dodgers, and his wonderful youth there.
His father, Charles E. Murphy, was the youngest of ten children. His family immigrated from Ireland, and he was the only one of the siblings to go to college. He later graduated from Fordham Law School, which he attended at night while supporting his young and growing family. “Pop-Pops” as he was called by his family, ultimately rose to be a judge on the New York State Supreme Court, where he would earn the admiration of many, including Governor Dewey, who described Judge Murphy to friends and colleagues as “an angel among men”. Tom was deeply inspired and influenced by the discipline and integrity of his father, who unequivocally advised him to “never do anything that would cost you a good night’s sleep.” Tom dutifully honored this value in his personal and professional life and happily always slept well.
His mother, Elizabeth (Sawyer) Murphy was affectionately and appropriately referred to as “Shorty”. Small in stature — she sat on phone books to drive the family car — she was large in love, intelligence, and kindness. In the formative Brooklyn days, “Shorty” would often pat her son on the chest and remark, “Tom, you’re terrific!” He took his sensible mother at her word.
After graduating from Brooklyn Prep, Tom graduated from Cornell University in 1945 with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering. “A terrible engineer”, he quickly learned his skills were better suited to building companies than designing machines.
He played varsity ice hockey at Cornell “because all the good skaters were away in the war” and, upon graduation, joined the Navy to serve in the U.S. Pacific Fleet. Following the war, in 1949, he graduated from Harvard Business School with high honors as a Baker Scholar. He loved his time there and the many classmates who became lifelong friends. He took pleasure that two of his children and four of his grandchildren went on to make their own memories at Harvard Business School.
He met Suzanne Crosby in 1950 in Spring Lake, N.J., at the engagement party of her sister Elaine to his first cousin, Henry Murphy. She was wearing a stunning fuchsia dress. The next day at breakfast, her father, John Crosby, announced that
“Tom Murphy was decidedly the most impressive young man at the party.” While Suzanne hadn’t come to the same conclusion, it got her curious about him. When he called later that Sunday afternoon to ask her out for a date, she accepted, and the rest is history.
Following business school, Mr. Murphy moved through a couple of jobs before relocating to Albany, at age 29, to take over a bankrupt television station, which ended up being the job of a lifetime. With him at the helm, the Hudson Valley Broadcasting Company grew into Capital Cities Communications, earning the reputation of a Wall Street darling. In 1985, “the minnow swallowed the whale”, and Capital Cities acquired ABC to become Capital Cities/ABC, Inc., marking the largest media deal in history at that time.
He wrapped up his career with one last deal in 1996, when he arranged to sell Capital Cities/ABC, Inc. to The Walt Disney Company. Then 71 years old, he knew the deal was great for the shareholders and the company long-term. He was especially proud that his colleague Bob Iger went on to run Walt Disney so capably.
Mr. Murphy served on a variety of corporate and nonprofit boards, retiring earlier this year from his final corporate board, Berkshire Hathaway, where he had deep respect and affection for its leadership and values. A devout Catholic, he believed in service, so as the finish line approached, his focus was increasingly charitable. He was tremendously proud of the Team at NYU Langone Health and admired the compassion and mission at Save The Children, Madison Square Boys and Girls Club, and The Inner-City Scholarship Fund.
“Our father was a great guy who lived an engaging, meaningful, and wonderful life,” said his children. “As he departed, life was good. The family was growing and healthy, an Irish Democrat was in The White House, The Rangers were in the playoffs, The Yankees and Mets were in first place, and his last meal included ice cream. Not bad for a kid from Brooklyn.”
A funeral was held June 2 at Church of the Resurrection in Rye.