An inventory of the Thomas J. Whelan, Sr. Collection at The American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives
Thomas Joseph Whelan, Sr., (BA, CUA 1933) was born October 4, 1911, in New York City, the fifth and youngest child of Irish immigrant parents. His father was a New York City policeman. The family lived in several neighborhoods in Manhattan.
“Tommy,” an outstanding athlete, attended Catholic Schools and in his senior year at All Hollows High School, was named All New York City in football, basketball, and baseball. Tommy arrived at CUA in August 1929 on a football scholarship. In his freshman year he played all three sports. By his sophomore year, Coach Dutch Bergman had him concentrate on football. The freshman team coach at that time was Eddie LaFond who later became the CUA Athletic Director.
Tommy excelled in football in all four years at CUA while carrying a full academic load and graduating with his class. He set a college record by scoring touchdown runs of 65 yards or longer in 14 consecutive games ranging from the middle of his sophomore year to nearly the end of his senior year. In his senior year (1932), he earned honorable mention honors as Division 1 National College All American. Tommy was a Utopian, was President of the Blue Key Fraternity, served as Secretary and Vice-President of the "C" Club, the letterman's athletics club, and played intramural sports.
After graduation, he played one year of football for the Pittsburgh Pirates at Forbes Field under the new owner, Art Rooney. The team was renamed the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1936. Tommy and Art Rooney remained life-long friends and frequently visited each other when Mr. Rooney was in town for a game with the Washington Redskins or when Mr. Rooney had horses running at the local tracks. Mr. Rooney attended Tommy’s funeral in June 1974.
The following year, Tommy coached football at Iona Prep., Iona NY. In 1935, Dutch Bergman hired Tommy as the CUA freshman coach, replacing Eddied LaFond. It was the varsity team of this year that in January 1936 defeated Mississippi in the first Orange Bowl game, 20 to 19.
In 1936, Tommy and Dutch Bergman teamed up as partners in joint ownership of a tavern on 12th Street, N.E. in the Brookland section of Washington, D.C. They sold that business in 1938. Tommy then partnered with Ben Zola (a Georgetown University basketball great) and together they opened up a tavern on 12th St. In 1951, they converted the tavern to a package liquor store in the same location. They sold that business in 1961.
In 1937, he married Harriet Dye. They had two sons, Patrick and Thomas, Jr. Patrick was a member of the Syracuse University 1959 National Championship Team and later served as a United States Secret Service Agent for four years. He owned a business for several years and then went into the scaffolding business. After service in the Army, Tommy Jr. went on to Columbus School of Law at Catholic University and worked for NASA thirty four years.
During World War II, Tommy, who was ineligible for military service due to health reasons, was drafted into the Defense Civilian Corp where for three-and-a-half years he served as a purchasing agent for the War Department. He specialized in the purchase of wood and wood products for ship building. By coincidence, he dealt extensively with another CUA football player, Gene Agustafer, who had become an official of Georgia Pacific Lumber Co.
In 1960, Tommy, who was active in the Democratic National Committee, became an advance man for John F. Kennedy in his campaign for President of the United States. In 1961, Tommy was appointed to the position of Administrative Assistant to the Chief of Park Police, Department of Interior. In 1963, he was assigned to the Congressional Liaison Office of the Department of Commerce. He retired from the Federal Government in 1972. Tommy passed away in June 1974, after a short illness.
This collection contains digitized images from two scrapbooks and one oversize photograph. The scrapbooks contain documents surrounding Whelan's accomplishments in athletics as a football player from high school to post-college. The large scrapbook was assembled by Tommy’s sister, Margaret, which is primarily composed of clippings, but also includes photographs and printed materials from the CUA Department of Athletics. Each Sunday after the Saturday games, Margaret went to the newsstand in New York and bought the Washington and New York newspapers and cut out the articles involving CUA athletics. These articles were then kept in a box until 1947, when a friend of Tommy’s, Mr. Jack Haley, who at that time was the United States Public Printer, took the articles, arranged them in chronological order, and had them bound into the book. After the scrapbook was compiled, additional clippings and photos were interleaved into the binding and some of the blank pages. This scrapbook primarily contains materials from 1927-1951, with the focus on 1929-1933. A few items were added after 1951, and are mainly documents concerning Whelan's induction into the CUA Athletics Hall of Fame.
Whelan compiled the second scrapbook, which is comprised of football memorabilia, campus photos, and photos of Whelan and his friends, including other CUA football players, and dates from 1929-1933. The final object in the collection is a photograph from February 11, 1930 at the Freshman Banquet for the Class of 1933.
This collection is divided into two series: 1) Scrapbooks and 2) Photographs.
The Thomas J. Whelan, Sr. Scrapbooks collection consists of two series:
Restrictions on Access
The physical scrapbooks are in the possession of the Whelan family. The CUA Archives possess files of the digitized scrapbooks, which are available upon request. There are no access restrictions for the digitized images.
The digital files of the scrapbook pages are available in the Archives.
The scrapbooks were provided by Thomas J. Whelan, Jr. to be digitized by the Archives. The digitized files were accessioned into the Archives in January 2010. The photograph was donated by Thomas J. Whelan, Jr. on November 4, 2010.
Processing and EAD markup completed in July 2011 by Robin C. Pike.
See other CUA photographic and alumni collections.
This record series is indexed under the following controlled access subject terms.
Whelan, Thomas Joseph, 1911-
Catholic University of America--History
Catholic University of America--Campus
Catholic University of America--College Sports
Catholic University of America--Students
The Whelan family still holds the original scrapbooks. The photograph is held by the CUA Archives.
Image viewing software must be used to view the digitized scrapbook image files.
Thomas J. Whelan Scrapbooks
The Cardinal Yearbook, 1933
The Tower, 1929-1933
Correspondence with Thomas J. Whelan, Jr., July 2011
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