With strong instincts for people and an ability to provide perspective to their problems, Tom Conner has been one of Houston's leading divorce attorneys for over 35 years. He's widely known as an experienced trial lawyer, but the Lamesa, Texas, native also brings a level of business and financial acumen to the law that many attorneys lack, even rivals admit. That, to some extent, has come naturally: He was reading balance sheets and income statements as a teen-ager, with an interest in his father's successful oil-patch AM radio station back in the early 60s.
Over the years Conner has taken on some of Houston's highest profile and most contentious cases. "They call me in when there's a lot to fight about," says Conner today. In Lamesa in the 50s and 60s ("If you ever saw 'The Last Picture Show', you'll have an idea of where I grew up") the deep-voiced Conner ruled the airwaves spinning Top 40 Hits on the popular AM station KPET - beginning as a 15-year-old. As an undergraduate at UT, he studied finance ("I was looking for a practical major"), but he got on the air with regularity, first with Houston's KNUZ, and later Austin's KNOW. But Conner, ambitious and focused, recognized the vagabond nature of radio work and instead went on to UH law school.
Within two years of graduation, Conner was handling matrimonial cases; in 1975 he and former partner James Patrick Smith represented Priscilla Davis, the wealthy socialite whose case (her ex-husband was tried in the murder of Davis's daughter) drew headlines for weeks. That experience "gave me a reputation really quickly, almost faster than I deserved - but my practice took off, and I never looked back." For many years Conner practiced with Smith, and their litigation practice thrived. All along Conner never shied from major cases; he represented Doris Angleton, whose 1997 murder by her gambler husband was chronicled in Carlton Smith's "Death in Texas." Over a decade ago Conner teamed with Steven Lindamood and was later joined by Cheryl Jeter; their firm today has three offices in the Houston metro area. The expansive practice works "because we have a top-flight support staff."
Conner remains a respected litigator and shrewd valuator of businesses, thanks largely to his own background in small business. "You'd be surprised how many people in our line of work can't read a balance sheet," he says. His financial skills have "really helped my clients throughout my career." In the mid-1990s Conner's daughter Emily was left paralyzed from a diving accident, and that trauma gave a defining purpose to the Conner family. Conner and his wife were instrumental in founding Mission Connect, which over the last decade has raised nearly $20 million for spinal-cord injury research. The organization today "is much, much bigger than us, but we know it's made a real difference the search for paralysis recovery." Conner enjoys spending time on his farm in Round Top, Texas.