Tom Chauncey was born in Houston, Texas. In 1926, at the age of 13, he hopped a freight train, arriving in Arizona with an elder brother. He went to work as a page in the Adams Hotel in Phoenix, where another brother was the manager. There he met Arizona Senator Carl Hayden, who encouraged him to pursue an education or establish a trade. Taking his advice, Tom began an apprenticeship with a Phoenix jeweler, and in the early 1940’s, launched Tom Chauncey Jewelers.
He then bought the radio station KPHO in Phoenix, with his friend, the cowboy star Gene Autry, in the first of several such joint ventures. In 1948, Mr. Chauncey became the general manager of another radio station, KOOL, which later became KOOL Radio-Television. They also acquired it a few years later. As owner of the station, he greatly influenced the direction of local and national television for more than thirty years. He was responsible for introducing the first female anchor to Arizona television, and he played a major role in airing the Kennedy-Nixon presidential debates. Mr. Chauncey was a vigorous supporter of expanding the evening news, first from 15 minutes to 30 minutes. In 1982, he was the most vocal among executives of CBS affiliates urging that the evening news expand from 30 to 60 minutes. In the early 1950’s, they also started KOLD-TV in Tucson. Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Telecommunication (1984) owes its name to Mr. Chauncey’s longtime association with Walter Cronkite. He is a member of the Rocky Mountain Southwest Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences’ Sliver Circle Society. He began selling his television holdings in the late 1970’s.
Tom was also a Hereford cattle rancher, following in the footsteps of his great-grandfather, who raised horses for the White House. He was introduced to Arabian horses by his second wife, Dorothy (Deedie) Wrigley Rich, a member of the Wrigley gum family of Chicago. In 1969 he bought an Arabian horse, Naborr, with singer, Wayne Newton and paid the record sum of $150,000 for it. He also owned the Arabian stallion Kharben, one of only two Triple Crown winners. In the early 1980’s, he started selling his Arabian horses and collaborated with Sotheby’s auction house in New York to hold a joint sale of Arabian horses and Old Master paintings at the Chauncey Arabian Horse Center in Scottsdale.
In 1983, Tom Chauncey received an Honorary Ph.D. from ASU, despite the fact that he had only received an eighth-grade education. A member and officer of many civic causes, he was a founding member of the Neurological Sciences Foundation and Barrow Neurological Institute, the President of the Community Council in Phoenix, and the chairman of numerous fund-raising events. Tom passed away in 1996 at the age of 83.