THOMAS CARTWRIGHT (affectionately known as Tom, Tommy, or TC) was born in San Diego, California on March 13, 1946 to Thomas Henry and Ella Ruth Cartwright. He was the fourth and last born to this couple. Tom was preceded in death by his parents. When his mother married George Robinson, he was blessed with eight additional siblings.
Tom attended Central Elementary School, Wilson Jr. High School, and Herbert Hoover High School. In 1964, he graduated from San Diego High School. While in school, Tom participated on the track and wrestling teams but admits he never reached his full potential in either sport because he did not enjoy practicing.
After high school, Tom worked at a spa in a private club and in construction. In 1974, a car accident left him with a back injury. He then went to vocational school to train in the hospitality industry. He began his hotel career in 1976 with the Hilton Corporation and remained with Hilton for five years working in management as a Front Office Manager and Director of Sales. He later joined the Great Pacific Hotels where he excelled in the positions of General Manager and Director of Operations. During one period in this industry, he was responsible for seven properties.
In 1992 Tom was recruited by Councilman George Stevens to help redirect the Project Employment Program (PEP), a hospitality training program that recruited, trained, and helped place individuals from “hard to serve” communities in the hotel industry. Tom also returned to school where he received this teaching certificate and was often called upon to teach Hotel/Motel Management classes at Grossmont College.
In 1994, he was hired by Yellow Cab of San Diego to establish and be the General Manager of Premier Ride, an executive transportation car service. In a short period, under Tom’s management, Premier Ride grew from four sedans to a fleet of four limos, four shuttle vans, and fifteen sedans. Premier was the preferred executive car service for a number of corporations in San Diego including Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, as well the preferred sedan service for some of the top hotels in the area including the L’Auberge Del Mar Resort and the San Diego Marriott Hotel and Marina.
In 2004, Tom formed TCA (Tom Cartwright Association) Transportation Management as a result of receiving a request from Bishop Roy Dixon (Faith Chapel Church of God in Christ) to coordinate the transportation for their Auxiliary in Ministry (AIM) convention which was being held in Detroit that year. Tom provided that service for AIM and several other local groups for years, and when AIM decided to manage their convention transportation in-house, Tom returned to hotel management.
For over 20 years, Tom helped to build and strengthen the San Diego Organizing Project (SDOP) by serving as a leader in his local church organizing committee, serving on the Board of SDOP for more than a decade, serving on the executive committee of the Board multiple years, and co-chairing the Board for three terms. Tom had a particular interest in economic development and the creation of good jobs for young people. He was active in the Learn and Earn Program and was a key SDOP negotiator in the largest private Community Benefits Agreement in the country on the Ballpark Village Project which resulted in hundreds of local jobs and over $20 million dollars in affordable housing.
Tom was a proud leader in San Diego, dedicated to passing California’s Proposition 47. He was dedicated to the liberation of young people and passionate about ending unjust policies that work to keep people of color behind bars. During his time in SDOP, he must have made over 10,000 phone calls across the county and state encouraging people to get out and vote!
Tom was active in many other campaigns on healthcare, affordable housing, education reform, voting, and state and national issues. However, his enduring gift was to always be there supporting other leaders and getting new people involved in organizing so that they could make a positive impact on society.
In 2007 Tom joined Trigild, a well-known property management company, and was assigned to manage the Armed Services Building in Downtown San Diego which included the YMCA, Grand Central Restaurant, and the 500 West Hotel, a 259-room hotel in which he was the General Manager until 2014. Tom retired in 2015, but since he couldn’t sit still, he took a job at The Home Depot where in true fashion, he ended up making many new friends. A person would walk in to buy a wrench and end up spending thirty minutes hanging out with their new friend, Tom.
Tom was a dedicated usher and deacon at Faith Chapel Church of God in Christ (under the leadership of Bishop Roy Dixon), which is now City of Hope International Church (COHI) under the leadership of Bishop Terrell Fletcher. While ushering, Tom met and befriended Brenda Tolbert; however, it was not until a year and a half later (2011) that the two were joined in holy matrimony. Tom and Brenda were the “quintessential couple,” a true example of what “God has put together.” From this union, they both received bonus daughters and grandchildren. Until his illness, the couple had a zest for life: traveling, spending quiet time together at home, and working together in ministry. They continued to usher at City of Hope International Church where Brenda could always look to her left and see him standing.
Tom was preceded in death by siblings Laverne Cartwright Swain, Henry Eugene Cartwright, Donald Ray Cartwright, Charles Kirby “Chuckie” Robinson, Lola Maurine Robinson, and Harvey Raymond “Zakee” Robinson.
He is survived by his wife, Brenda; his daughter Shondel Cartwright; grandson, Dennis Cartwright (fiancée Amanda); great-granddaughters: Angelina and Alejandra; bonus daughter, Teanna Diggs (Corey); granddaughters: Aria, Ava, Avery, and Aurora; his brothers: David Robinson and Oscar J. Robinson (Alejandra); sisters: Wanda Swainson (John, deceased), Michelle Holloway (Robert), Dorothy Stonewall (Dale), and a host of marvelous nieces, nephews, relatives, and friends.