Tom Gallagher passed away July 8 in Tinton Falls.
Tom was born Sept. 11, 1940 in Manhattan, the son of Thomas Sr. and Mary Josephine Murphy Gallagher. Tom graduated from Holy Spirit School in Asbury Park, Red Bank Catholic High School, Monmouth University (B.A. ‘62) and the University of Southern California where he earned a master’s degree in social work.
Five days after graduating from Monmouth, Tom entered the first Peace Corps group to go to Ethiopia. Sixty years after leaving the Peace Corps, Tom was still in touch with 13 of the 80 boys he taught while in the small town of Agordot.
In 1965 Tom entered the U.S. Foreign Service. His first assignment was to Jidda, Saudi Arabia and then Nigeria. Tom returned to the United States in 1970 and worked in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the State Department.
In 1972 Tom moved to the State Department’s Office of Personnel where he made the first assignment of a female officer to the Office of the Secretary of State and to Arabic training. In 1975 Tom was assigned as acting U.S. Consul General in Guayaquil, Ecuador.
In that same year Tom publicly “came out” as a gay man, making him the first officer of the U.S. federal government to come out publicly and voluntarily. Thirty-eight years later Secretary of State Hilary Clinton praised Tom during a speech for permanently changing the State Department by challenging discrimination against gay people.
Coming out forced Tom to resign from the State Department. He moved to California to pursue a career as a social worker.
In 1994, when the policy of formal discrimination against gay foreign service officers was lifted by President Clinton, Tom returned to his first career. He served as American Consul in Madrid and as Country Officer for Eritrea and Sudan.
In 1999 Tom was transferred to the U.S. Embassy in Brussels as head of the visa section. There he refused a visa to a radical young Moroccan who wanted to return to his studies in mosquito spraying at the flight school in Opa Laka, Florida in September 2001.
Tom’s final tour at the State Department was at the Office of International Health where he served as regional advisor for Europe.
In 2015 Monmouth University named Tom their Distinguished Alumnus of the Year.
In 2016 NJ Pride, the New Jersey gay organization, presented Tom with its Trailblazer award in recognition of his many years of gay activism. In that same year the Assistant Secretary of State for Security Affairs publicly apologized to Tom for the fact that he had been forced to give up his career 40 years earlier.
In 2012 Tom auditioned for and was accepted into the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus, allowing him to dance and sing his way through old age.
More than anything he just liked to make people laugh. Tom was a storyteller. His Irish eyes, hearty laugh, wry sense of humor and passion for living and loving others resonated in the hearts of those who knew him and will continue to do so in his memory. He relished traveling, tuna fish sandwiches, tea, sleeping well past the sun rising and singing in a choir. But perhaps paramount in Tom’s life was the deep love he had for his husband, Amin.
Tom is survived by his former wife, Carolyn Worrell who is a judge in Nevada, and by his husband, Amin Dulkumoni, a software engineer. At his bequest, Tom’s body was donated for research and education to Mercer County Community College. Memorial services are being planned at the DACOR Bacon House in Washington, D.C., this September, and at Monmouth University later this summer.
If you liked this story, you’ll love our newspaper. Click here to subscribe