Tom Rickhoff

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Thomas Emmett "Tom" Rickhoff

Judge of the Texas 289th District Court (Bexar County)
In office
Succeeded by Carmen Kelsey

Judge of the Texas Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal for 32 counties south and west of San Antonio
In office
January 1993 – 2001
Preceded by Ron Carr
Succeeded by Sandee Bryan Marion

Judge of the Bexar County
Probate Court No. 2
In office
2001 – December 31, 2018

Born July 13, 1944
Bayview, Kootenai County
Nationality American
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Carol Mumford Rickhoff (married 1970)
Relations Gerard C. "Gerry" Rickhoff (brother)
Children Five children
Residence San Antonio, Texas
Alma mater St. Mary's University, Texas

St. Mary's University School of Law

Occupation Attorney, Professor, Judge

Captain in the United States Army
Lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve

Religion Roman Catholic

Thomas Emmett Rickhoff, known as Tom Rickhoff (born July 13, 1944), is a Republican former probate judge from San Antonio, Texas. He was the presided in the suit against billionaire sports team owner and automobile dealer Thomas Milton "Tom" Benson (1927-2018) filed by Benson's estranged adopted daughter.

In the general election held on November 6, 2018, Rickhoff, the Republican nominee for Bexar County administrative judge, was defeated by the long-term Democratic incumbent, Nelson William Wolff (born 1940).


Rickhoff was born at the Farragut Naval Training Station in Bayview in northern Idaho while his father, Leo John Rickhoff (died 1974), was serving in the Philippines Campaign during World War II. His mother was the former Lela Doerr (died 2003). Leo and Lela married in 1942 and had six other children younger than Tom: John, Lynn, Jim, Gerard, Mike, and Mary Ann. Leo Rickoff was a trial lawyer for twenty-eight years and a state district court judge in Missouri.[1] Leo and Lela Rickhoff are interred at Resurrection Cemetery in Affton in St. Louis County, Missouri.[2] Tom Rickhoff was reared in St. Louis but left for Texas to attend college.[3]

In 1966, Rickhoff graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English history from St. Mary's University and in 1969 from St. Mary's School of Law, both in San Antonio. From 1969 to 1974, Rickhoff was a captain on active duty in the United States Army, including service in the Vietnam War.[3] He was a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve from 1974 to 1993.[1]


Rickhoff was admitted to the practice of law in 1969 and was from 1987 to 2000 an associate professor of law at his alma mater, St. Mary's School of Law. From 1974 to 1977, he was an assistant United States Attorney for the Western District of Texas. He was also during this period a special trial attorney for the United States Department of Justice, having worked against the Mafia in the New Orleans field office of the Organized Crime and Racketeering Strike Force.[1]

In 1978, Rickhoff was elected county clerk, the first member of his party to hold countywide office in historically Democratic Bexar County since Reconstruction.[4][5] For his reforms in the office, Rickhoff was named "Politician of the Year" in 1979 by the defunct San Antonio Light newspaper. His brother, Republican Gerard C. "Gerry" Rickhoff, has been since 1995 theBexar county clerk, a positionearlier held by Tom Rickhoff.[1]

In 1981, Republican Governor Bill Clements appointed Rickhoff as the judge of the 289th District Court in San Antonio. He was elected to a full term in the office in 1982 with 59 percent of the vote,[1] even as Clements went down to defeat statewide at the hands of his gubernatorial opponent, state Attorney General Mark White. Three other Republicans, Roy Barrera, Jr., David Peeples, and David Berchelmann, were also elected to state court judgeships in Bexar County in 1982.[4] In 1986, Rickhoff was reelected judge to a second full four-year with 65.5 percent, the largest share of the vote attained by that time by a countywide Republican candidate in Bexar County history. Unopposed for reelection in 1990, Rickhoff left the 289th Court upon his narrow election in 1992 to the Fourth Court of Appeals. He unseated the Democrat Judge Ron Carr, 291,643 (51.3 percent) to 277,248 (48.7 percent).[6]

In 2001, Rickhoff left the appeals court upon his appointment as judge of the Bexar County Probate Court. He was elected in 2002 to the probate court and has remained until 2019[1] though he faced a tough reelection bid in 2006 from the Democrat Barbara Scharf-Zeldes. Rickhoff collects state retirement from his previous time on the appeals court as well as his $161,492 annual salary on the probate court. In 2014, Rickhoff took off sixty-five days of work, including time for a vacation to Australia and New Zealand. Along with Polly Jackson Spencer, Rickhoff is one of two probate judges for Bexar County. There is no limit on how much time off a probate judge can take each year.[7]

Notable cases

In 2014, Rickhoff awarded $310,000 in insurance funds to Frances A. Hall, who is accused of having in 2013 killed her 50-year-old husband, trucking executive Bill Hall, Jr., with her vehicle while he was riding his motorcycle near his place of work. The woman was outraged over Hall's alleged extramarital affair. Rickhoff made the decision based on the wishes of Hall's adult children.[8]

In February 2015, Judge Rickhoff named former San Antonio Mayor Phil Hardberger, a Democrat, and attorney Art Bayern as co-executors of the testamentary trust of Shirley L. Benson, Tom Benson's late wife. The two replaced Tom Benson as trustees of the estate. Benson's estranged adopted daughter, Renee Benson, and her two adult children sought to prevent changes to Shirley Benson's trust. She maintains that her father, the owner of the New Orleans Saints and San Antonio Mercedes-Benz, had grown incapable in his later years of handling his financial affairs.[9] Benson, meanwhile, will appeal Rickhoff's decision to appoint Hardberger and Bayern as co-executors of Mrs. Benson's estate.[10]

2018 campaign for county judge

In the race for county judge, Rickhoff accuses Wolff of "leading a corrupt court with limitless contributions" from people who benefit from county contracts and greatly expanding debt with lavish spending on art projects. Rickhoff presented a flowchart outlining his claims. Wolff rebutted the charges as "typical Trump lies. It's just one thing after another with him. He ought to be in the courthouse doing his job instead of taking taxpayer money and holding press conferences."[11]

Rickhoff called the system "pay to play" and cited the example of Richard Wells of the Dailey-Wells Company, which won a $106 million public-safety radio system contract with both the city and the county. Wells contributed $10,000 to Wolff's campaign in 2017. Wolff said that the choice of another vendor would have cost the county $12 million in additional costs.[11]

On March 24, 2018, columnist Brian Chasnoff of The San Antonio Express-News interjected the name of Republican U.S. Representative Louie Gohmert of Tyler, Texas into the Rickhoff-Wolff campaign. Chasnoff called Gohmert "infamous for kooky conspiracy theories, including his claim in 2010 that pregnant undocumented women were crossing the border to give birth to 'terror babies' with U.S. citizenship."[12] The notes that Rickhoff, like Gohmert, often uses flow charts to bolster his arguments. Rickhoff, however, made clear that he is no admirer of the conservative Gohmert: "I don't ever want to hear his name."[12]

Precinct 3 county commissioners race, 2020

Rickhoff was among eight Republicans running in the primary election on March 3, 2020, for the Precinct 3 seat on the Bexar County Commissioners Court. The incumbent Moderate Republican Kevin Wolff, a son of Democratic Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, did not seek reelection. Another candidate, Weston Martinez, is a movement conservative who lost a race in 2018 for the Texas Railroad Commission.[13]

Though Rickhoff won a runoff slot in the election held on July 14, he was defeated by Trish DeBerry, who now faces the Democrat Christine Hortick. The founder of the marketing agency, the DeBerry Group, and a former television anchor, DeBerry ran unsuccessfully for mayor of San 2009.[14]

Personal life

In 1970, Rickhoff married the former Carol Mumford, who holds a master's degree in social work from Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio. The Rickhoffs have three sons and two daughters. Rickhoff's brothers, Jim and Mike, worked in law enforcement. John Richoff, Jr., is a retired United States Postal Service employee. His sister, Lynn, is a fundraiser for a university fundraiser; his other sister, Mary Ann, has worked for Drury Inn in San Antonio, and her husband is deputy director of the Texas Veterans Commission.[1]

Rickhoff formerly was a commentator for the weekly segment "Eye on San Antonio" on KENS-TV, his local CBS affiliate. He is a former commentator too on "Judge Rickhoff On the Law" for WOAI (AM) radio. He has also written various legal publications.[1]

Rickhoff is a Roman Catholic in the Holy Trinity Parish and a member of Rotary International. He is also associated with the Christian Pro-Life Foundation, the Bexar County Mental Health Group Home, the Children's Shelter, and the Salvation Army for Girls.[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 Judge Rickhoff's Bio. (March 2, 2015).
  2. Leo John Rickhoff. Retrieved on March 2, 2015.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Profiles in Probate Law: Tom Rickhoff. San Antonio Business Journal (November 15, 2009). Retrieved on March 2, 2015.
  4. 4.0 4.1 History of the Republican Party of Bexar County. Retrieved on March 2, 2015.
  5. Though Tom Rickhoff was the first San Antonio Republican in countywide office, as early as 1962, San Antonio Republicans elected two justices of the peace, Bob Strickland and Frank Vaughn, and a constable, Bill Hancock, who switched parties and sought reelection as a Republican.
  6. Texas general election returns. Texas Secretary of State (November 3, 1992). Retrieved on March 2, 2015.
  7. Gilbert Garcia (October 18, 2014). Rickhoff's extended vacation on the probate court. The San Antonio Express-News. Retrieved on March 2, 2015.
  8. Patrick Danner (August 19, 2014). Murder suspect cashes in on insurance policy. San Antonio Express-News. Retrieved on March 2, 2015.
  9. David Hendricks (February 5, 2015). Hardberger named co-receiver of Benson Trust. San Antonio Express-News. Retrieved on March 2, 2015.
  10. Jaquetta White and Ramon Antonio Vargas (February 19, 2015). Tom Benson to appeal judge’s decision to remove him as overseer of Texas trust. The Baton Rouge Advocate. Retrieved on March 2, 2015.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Jasper Scherer, "Rickhoff lambastes county judge: Candidate will be facing Wolff in November", San Antonio Express News, March 20, 2018, pp. A3, A8.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Brian Chasnoff, "Rickhoff channels Gohmert in county race", The San Antonio Express-News, March 24, 2018, p. A2.
  13. This is the 2020 Republican March Primary ballot for Bexar County. Retrieved on February 18, 2020.
  14. Trish DeBerry wins GOP nomination for Bexar County Commissioner Precinct 3: ... to face Democrat Christine Hortick in November. KSAT Radio (July 15, 2020). Retrieved on August 1, 2020.