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Tom Walter

By RD Heldenfels Published: August 15, 2006

My former TV critic colleague, Tom Walter, has died. You can read his obit here.  Tom and I were were friends, if not close ones. The last time we talked was around the time he retired. He was facing a long, terrible road of illness at that point but was still cheerful and upbeat.

I can still hear Tom's laugh, and was always glad to see him when our paths crossed. I suspect some of you see TV critics as very focused folks whose critical faculties are devoted to deciding whether the third season of ''Dawson's Creek'' was better than the second. In fact, many of my colleagues bring experiences that don't involve television to their jobs, and are able to assess the worth of things beyond the small screen.

Tom and I shared a love of old rock & roll, and I remember sitting with him at a table during a performance by Sun Records veterans, tied to a then-upcoming special for PBS about Sun. We both grinned like fools through most of the show.

Being a Memphis guy, Tom knew the music, and some of the key figures from its history. He recalled being summoned by Sam Phillips for a talk, then listening to one of Phillips' famous extended monologues for more an hour or more before Sam got to the point of the meeting -- some business involving radio stations he owned.

Tom was also well and widely read. One time, I was making my way through Stephen Ambrose's ''Nothing Like It in the World'' and enjoying it -- until Tom offhandedly mentioned that there were a lot of questions about its historical accuracy. He didn't bring that up based on some article. He had read the history.

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