In Memoriam
July-August 2022

Links to the past, lest we forget

By Tom Krampitz
TDCAF Board member and former TDCAA Executive Director

A few months ago, Rob Kepple, TDCAA’s Executive Director, told me that Tom Hanna had passed away in February. I am honored to write about Tom for this edition of The Texas Prosecutor; I remember him as a quiet titan.

            Chances are you’re wondering, “So who was Tom Hanna?” For a detailed biography, I recommend you go to his obituary at There you will learn lots about Tom’s life and accomplishments.

            My history with Tom began in 1976 when I joined the TDCAA staff. At the time Tom was the Criminal District Attorney of Jefferson County. He became a mentor and guiding light, not just for me, but for legions of lawyers throughout his lifetime. During his tenure in office, a wellspring of talent flowed from Beaumont, with many of his charges establishing long and distinguished careers, both bench and bar.

            Tom’s leadership abilities weren’t confined to his perch in Jefferson County, for soon after taking office he quickly became the go-to legislative voice for Texas prosecutors. Here’s how it happened.

            Prior to 1970, TDCAA was an informal group that met once a year in September in conjunction with something called the Attorney General’s Law Enforcement Conference. There was no professional staff or office for TDCAA. But in 1970, two things occurred:  First, Carol Vance, then District Attorney of Harris County, approached then-Governor Preston Smith and requested that some new federal dollars available for state law enforcement support be directed to training and technical assistance for Texas prosecutors. At the same time this was happening, the Legislature was preparing to conduct a long-needed codification of all the penal laws spread throughout Texas statutes for the first-of-its-kind Penal Code.

            Governor Smith saw an opportunity. He offered that Texas prosecutors could be the guiding force in preparing the draft Penal Code for the Legislature to consider, and he would give them training funds. Texas prosecutors responded, and the Texas District and County Attorneys Association entered its modern era.  

            And here’s where Tom Hanna entered the picture as well. One of his law school classmates, Terry Doyle, was a member of the Legislature, and he knew of Tom’s brilliance as both an attorney and strategist. He asked Tom to lend his talents to the Penal Code revision process, and rather than this being a State Bar-directed effort, Tom engaged his prosecutor brethren. From thence was birthed the famous (and at times perhaps infamous) exploits of the TDCAA Penal Code Committee.

            The Committee met nearly continuously for the better part of two years, convening in Austin for weekend meetings that would sometimes extend long into the evening. The work could be tedious as legal scholars among the group would parse over the nuances of legal doctrines and words and phrases. Photographic evidence from those meetings revealed that on occasion there might be an adult beverage or two provided to calm nerves and temper strongly held positions.

            That same social lubricant could inspire some equally creative and mischievous results.  For instance, would you have considered it necessary that the definition of “club” in Chapter 46 include a “mace” or a “tomahawk?”  Remember, we’re talking about 1971–73, not the dark ages or the frontier days. Or what about Chapter 46 defining an illegal knife (up until recently) to include a “bowie knife, sword, or spear” as well as a “dagger, including but not limited to a dirk, stiletto and poniard?” When’s the last time your evidence in a weapons case included any of those instruments?

            Tom remained the steady and guiding hand for the entirety of the process. His talents as a leader were evident throughout, as he encouraged and accommodated all points of view, while holding steadfast to the notion that no proposal would emerge from the committee without unanimous approval. He understood that while individual viewpoints were important, the goal was to produce a document that was balanced and that would stand the test of time. The culmination of these efforts resulted in the Legislature approving the draft in 1973 and the new Code taking effect on January 1, 1974.

            As the years roll by I’ve found myself increasingly in the position of providing a link to the past. And it’s important that we maintain those connections because that’s where the power of legacy resides. That was the case a few years back when Rob asked me to write a column upon the passing of TDCAA and TDCAF stalwart Dan Boulware. (Find it at It’s important to Rob that we celebrate and keep current the legacy of our past leaders, for it is because of their foundational efforts that we are the relevant and vibrant organization that we are today.

            I’m pretty sure Tom wouldn’t have cared for much being made over his lifetime of achievements, his adherence to a code of personal integrity and excellence, his selfless efforts on behalf of his community and profession—the list goes on and on. But I’m equally sure that there’d be a gleam in his eye when he mused over tomahawks and the like.

            God bless you, Tom Hanna. The Lord gifted us all when he placed you in our paths.

            Editor’s note: As this issue was going to press, Carol Vance, who is mentioned in this article, passed away at the age of 88. We will write more about Mr. Vance in an upcoming issue.