On September 14, 2017, South Florida Trial Attorney, and former Broward County Assistant Public Defender (1991 to 1995), Thomas "Tom" O'Connell, 54, while surrounded by family, succumbed to the bladder cancer that for so long he refused to let stop him.
Tom was born, April 23, 1963, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He earned his Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration (1987), from Florida Atlantic University, his Juris Doctorate (1991), from Nova Law School, and passed the Florida Bar that same year.
An ardent student and defender of the Constitution, Tom was known for his unwavering belief in equal rights for all. He worked tirelessly for causes and candidates he believed in and was very involved in both national and local politics. "Tom was a great attorney who 'got it' and knew what Due Process means," Brian Silber, legal colleague recalled about Tom.
Another colleague, Russell Bernstein said, "I had the privilege of interning with Tom at the Public Defender's Office. He was a role model and a true inspiration and was always there when I sought advice."
An advocate for the little guy, the underdog and those in need, Tom understood that the law was for everyone, especially those for whom he fought so valiantly. Said Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, "He loved politics, always wanted to be in the arena making a difference, and he passionately cared about bettering his community."
And, Corey Shearer, former president of the Broward Democratic Black Caucus, recalled about Tom in a Facebook post, "Tom O'Connell, thanks for backing me up and coaching me for 13 incredible years." Corey went on to thank Tom for believing that "all people, regardless of class or class or circumstances should have a seat at the table."
Never one to complain, Tom was a familiar face in the courtroom even while under hospice care and during the final weeks of what became his final, epic battle with cancer. Those who knew Tom's struggle were both humbled and inspired by the sight of him: barely able to walk; nearly a hundred pounds smaller; still showing up and winning cases.
Tom's work brought rewards and awards, including: 1995 Young Democrat of the Year award; in 2001 and 2005, he earned the "Hat-Trick" (for at least three consecutive not guilty felony verdicts); and personally rewarding to Tom was his service for many years as Campaign Counsel to numerous political organizations and campaigns, including local candidates for Broward County Sheriff, County Commission, City Commission, Mayor, and counsel to the Clerk of Court. Tom was Co-Lead Counsel, Obama for Change/Florida Democratic Voting Rights Council, and served as Early Voting Rights Chairman.
Above all, Tom lived for his family. He is survived by his wife of 20 years, Amanda Rose O'Connell, his beloved daughter Elizabeth (Lizzy) O'Connell, 12, both of Boynton Beach, his Mother, Patricia O'Connell, Step-father, William (Bill) O'Connell, Sister, Andrea O'Connell, brother Timothy O'Connell, and his nieces, Meaghan and Lauren O'Connell.
Tom is preceded in death by his father, Andrew Edward O'Connell.
To honor Tom's devotion and delight at seeing his daughter Lizzy perform with the Sol Children Theatre, the family asks that, in lieu of flowers, a donation to the Not for Profit "Sol Children Theatre, Inc." 3333 North Federal Highway, Suite 5, Boca Raton, FL 33431, be made in memory of Tom.
Arrangements are as follows:
Friday, September 22, 2017
- 2:00 to 4:00 pm, and
- 6:00 to 8:00 pm
Fred Hunter Funeral Home
2401 S. University Drive, Davie, FL 33324 (954) 527-1550
Saturday, September 23, 2017
St. Coleman's Catholic Church
1200 South Federal Highway, Pompano Beach, FL 33062
Tom was in my first year law school class. He was a good friend to all.
Tom was the President of the Broward Young Democrats when I joined in 1993.
He was a good friend and good lawyer.
I am sad to see Tom leave us at such a young age.
He will be remembered and is loved.
Tom was my friend for 25 years. We never lost touch even when my wife and I moved to North Carolina. The world is quieter now without Tom's laughter. He will never be forgotten.
Tom was a person I was always glad to see. As a prosecutor, I knew that Tom would always be honorable and fair, yet defend his client to the best of his abilities. I am very sorry the legal world lost him. John Countryman
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