Tom Houck is the Atlanta based owner of a public affairs & media company TOMHOUCK.COM. Born in Cambridge, Massachusetts he has spent his entire life in the movement for social change, the media, politics and public affairs.
A high school dropout, Tom became involved in the civil rights movement as a teenager. From 1965-1971 Houck worked with the NAACP, SCLC, and VEP in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Washington DC, New York and Chicago. During this time Houck was arrested on numerous occasions while participating in non violent civil disobedient demonstrations to secure civil and voting rights for all Americans. In 1966 he filed suit against Jefferson County Alabama jails resulting in a landmark US Supreme Court decision, desegregating prisons across America.
From 1966 until his assassination in 1968 Tom was an aide to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. During much of this time he was a driver/chauffeur and personal assistant to Dr. King and his family. Houck also became the youngest member of SCLC’s executive staff working with the organizations efforts to end the Vietnam War and mobilization for the “Poor People’s Campaign”. Houck helped organize Hispanics, Asians, Native American and poor Whites for the long crusade across America culminating in the first truly rainbow community at “Resurrection City” on the Mall in Washington DC. He was a speaker representing poor whites at the kick off of the Poor Peoples campaign in Memphis.
In 1968 and 1969 as a member of the SCLC staff, Tom participated in organizing anti war campaigns in Washington and Atlanta, get out the vote efforts in New York and Georgia, the hospital workers strike in Charleston, South Carolina and in his own right, Houck became a figure in the national peace movement, organizing stop the draft movements in conjunction with the Fellowship of Reconciliation.
From 1970 until 1972 Houck worked as field director for the Voter Education Project (VEP) and with John Lewis and Julian Bond – mobilizing, registering and encourage minority voter’s participation across the 11southern states of the old Confederacy. During this time the number of black elected officials increased 100 fold. He also lobbied extensively for the historic passage of the 26th Amendment, granting 18 year olds the right to vote.
In 1972 as a result of his efforts in the lowering of the voting age, he was named deputy director of the Washington based Youth Citizenship Fund, heading up efforts to maximize first time 18-21 year old voter registration/education and turnout in 26 states.
Returning to Georgia in 1973, for the next three years, Tom became active in Georgia and national politics, coordinating the successful campaign of Zell Miller for Lt. Governor, working with Andy Young in his successful bid for Congress, coordinating Julian Bond’s exploratory bid for President, Sargent Shriver’s Presidential campaign in Mississippi and directing Jimmy Carter’s Peanut Brigade efforts in Illinois in his successful presidential race.
During this time Houck also created a speakers bureau “Voices of the South”, clients included Julian Bond, Andy Young, and Bert Lance.
In 1977 his involvement in politics and long standing interest in journalism led to a new career in radio, TV and print journalism. For the next 25 years to present, he has been a force in Atlanta and national media.
From 1980 until 1990 he hosted a radio talk show on Newsradio WGST. From 1981 until 2000, Houck was a regular panelist on the long running “Sunday News Conference” and “Georgia Gang” on WSB TV and WAGA TV. Houck was a contributor to “Atlanta Magazine” and from 1986 until 2001 a columnist for the largest weekly in the south, Creative Loafing.
During his career in the media -Houck interviewed every presidential candidate from Ronald Reagan to Bill Clinton. He attended, reported and broadcast on all the presidential primaries and conventions of both political parties from 1980 until 1996. Tom’s show was a must listen to in Atlanta and a who’s who of entertainment, politics, and breaking news made appearances on the program.
In 1988 Houck was a founding member of the National Association of Talk Show Hosts (NATSH). During his tenure as a talker he won another landmark case on “fighting words”, supporting the right of free speech. To this day this case is used by broadcast journalist in support of their 1st Amendment rights of free speech.
Leaving talk radio in 1991 Houck embarked on a career in public affairs. Among over 30 clients in the last decade, his clients have included United Healthcare, CNBC, Vivendi Universal, Ameripark, The Friendship Force, Landesbank, Insideradvantage.com, the countries of Portugal and Columbia.
Houck is currently working on a memoir -”Driving Dr. King: Chasing the Dream” -publication date 2009.