Thomas M. Lofton
May 12, 1929- June 19, 2015
While Kathy & I were vacationing in Tobago, I learned the very sad news of the passing of my only Uncle, Tom Lofton. Married to my father’s sister, Betty Blades, my sisters and I spent large chunks of our childhoods with the Lofton’s and their daughters, our cousins Stephanie and Melissa. Many of the happiest memories of my youth are holiday traditions either at the Lofton’s home or at my grandparent’s home with them there. The many well deserved accolades of the obituary below never meant all that much to me, he was just simply Uncle Tom, one of the kindest, most gentle, and generous people that I knew. He and Betty were both role models to me on how to live life and how to put the interests of others ahead of your own. Kathy and I send our sincerest sympathy to Aunt Betty, my cousins Stephanie and Melissa and their families and to all the friends and those many touched by Uncle Tom’s graceful presence.
Betty, Marta & Tom
Chairman of Lilly Endowment Inc., one of the largest private foundations in the nation, died June 19. He was 86. Lofton was born May 12, 1929, in Indianapolis. A 1947 graduate of Howe High School, he was an Eagle Scout and a delegate to Hoosier Boys State. He attended Butler University and was graduated with distinction from Indiana University Bloomington in 1951. He attended Indiana University School of Law where he served as Editor-in-Chief of the Indiana Law Journal and was graduated with distinction and honored with membership in Beta Gamma Sigma and the Order of the Coif. Admitted to the Indiana State Bar in 1954, he began his legal career that year as a law clerk to United States Supreme Court Justice Sherman Minton. He also served as a First Lieutenant in the Judge Advocate General Corps in the United States Army from 1955-1958.
In 1955, Lofton joined the Indianapolis law firm of Baker & Daniels (now Faegre Baker Daniels). For more than three decades, he served the firm in a variety of important leadership capacities. The epitome of a lawyer's lawyer, he focused his early career on antitrust law. An active member of the Indiana, 7th Circuit and American Bar associations, he was a former chairman of the ABA's Committee on Practice and Procedure of the Antitrust Section.
Toward the end of the 1960s when major changes were enacted to the federal tax laws governing nonprofit organizations, he began to dedicate much of his career to the service of charitable and philanthropic organizations. A nationally recognized expert on the laws relating to tax-exempt organizations, he distinguished himself as counsel to several of the largest such organizations in the country, including Lilly Endowment, The Clowes Fund, Liberty Fund, Indiana University Foundation, Christian Theological Seminary, and the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indian and Western Art. He provided essential legal counsel for many of the most significant projects and initiatives that developed the Indianapolis community during the 1970s and 1980s.
He also was considered a preeminent lawyer for national and international fraternities, sororities and societies, including Alpha Chi Omega, Delta Tau Delta, Phi Gamma Delta, Phi Mu Foundation, Kiwanis International, Kiwanis International Foundation and his own fraternity, Sigma Nu and the Sigma Nu Educational Foundation.
Besides providing valuable legal counsel to dozens of clients, he also devoted himself personally to several charitable causes, giving freely of his time, considerable talent, and deep insight. He served on the boards of Indiana University Foundation, Sigma Nu Fraternity, Sigma Nu Educational Foundation, The Clowes Fund, and The Allen Whitehill Clowes Charitable Foundation. He also served for many years as a member of the Board of Visitors of the Indiana University Law School and as a member of the Indiana University Medical School Dean's Council.
Lofton received several honors and accolades during his life, including honorary doctoral degrees from Indiana University, Ball State University, and Wabash College from which he also received the Peck Award for his distinguished legal career. He also received the Distinguished Alumni Service Award from Indiana University in 1979, and he was inducted into the Academy of Law Alumni Fellows of Indiana University. He is a member of the Sigma Nu Fraternity Hall of Honor, and he was named a Sagamore of the Wabash by Governor Mitch Daniels.
Lofton's work with Lilly Endowment will remain a hallmark of his service in philanthropy. In 1970 he became chief legal counsel to the Endowment, an Indianapolis-based foundation dedicated to causes in community development, education and religion. Because of this work, and earlier engagements through Baker & Daniels, Mr. Lofton knew two of the Endowment's founders (J.K. Lilly Jr. and Eli Lilly) and was dedicated to preserving their values throughout the Endowment's grantmaking and other operations.
After retiring as a senior partner from Baker & Daniels in 1991, Lofton became vice chairman of the Endowment. In 1993, he assumed leadership as chairman and served briefly as its president from 1993 to 1994.
Lofton is survived by his beloved wife, Betty; two daughters, Stephanie Lees of Indianapolis and Melissa Guinn of Bloomington, six grandchildren, two great grandchildren, and a brother, John.