NEW ORLEANS -- Tom Benson, 90, passed away peacefully Thursday, March 15, at Ochsner Medical Center with his wife Gayle Marie Benson at his side. Mr. Benson was hospitalized with the flu on Feb. 16.
Thomas Milton Benson, Jr. was born on July 12, 1927 in New Orleans to Thomas Milton Benson Sr. and Carmelite Marie Pintado Benson. Raised in the 7th Ward neighborhood of New Orleans, Mr. Benson graduated from St. Aloysius High School (now Brother Martin) in 1944.
Following his high school graduation, he enrolled at Loyola University New Orleans to study business and accounting. He interrupted his education to enlist in the U.S. Navy, where he was assigned to the USS South Dakota. Upon the conclusion of World War II, Mr. Benson returned home to New Orleans and continued his business administration studies.
In 1948, he went to work as a bookkeeper for the Cathey Chevrolet Co. in New Orleans and by 1956, at age 29, Mr. Benson was on his way to manage a Chevrolet dealership as a junior partner. Six years later, he took full control of the company and established a multi-dealership organization with outlets throughout the New Orleans area and South Texas.
In 1972, Mr. Benson entered the banking business and eventually took his banking network public as Benson Financial World.
In 1985, Mr. Benson purchased the New Orleans Saints after learning that the NFL franchise was on the verge of being sold to parties interested in relocating the team. Mr. Benson purchased the Saints on May, 31, 1985. In 1987, the team posted its first winning season and advanced to the playoffs for the first time.
Since being purchased by Mr. Benson in 1985, the Saints have earned 11 playoff berths, six division titles and captured Super Bowl XLIV in 2009, building a foundation for continued success, on and off the field. Known among his peers in the NFL as an important leader, Benson’s input on the league level was instrumental, serving as chairman of the league Finance Committee for three separate stints. He also played a major role in New Orleans become a Super Bowl host five times since his purchase of the team.
In 2012, Mr. Benson purchased the National Basketball Association’s New Orleans Hornets franchise from the NBA, which the following season, he rebranded and had renamed the New Orleans Pelicans.
Through his sports teams, business interests and the Gayle and Tom Benson Foundation, Mr. Benson was dedicated to assisting a myriad of charitable, faith-based and educational causes in the New Orleans and South Texas communities.
Under Mr. Benson’s direction his businesses and sports teams annually have put millions of dollars back into the community in financial support, in-kind donations, charitable appearances and the donations of goods and services. Over 50 deserving charitable organizations, foundations and agencies have annually received financial support from Mr. Benson.
Details regarding public visitation and funeral will be forthcoming.