Tom Smith Roots, Jr. was born November 22, 1909 in Marshall, Texas, a small town in Harrison County. His father, also named Tom Smith Roots, was born 1883 in Texas. His mother, Josie Louise Hamill, was born 1886 in Texas. His parents married in 1908. He was their only child. They lived at 516 East Rusk Street in Marshall, Texas. His father was a bookkeeper at a plumbing supply company, while his mother was a clerk in the store room of the local railroad.
They lived in the home of his maternal grandfather, Robert P. Hamill, who was born 1858 in Alabama and operated a dentistry office in the parlor room beside the street level entrance of the home.
In 1915 his parents and he moved to San Antonio, Texas, where his father worked as a salesman of automobiles. They lived at 111 Cliff Avenue.
In 1919 his parents divorced. He and his mother returned to Marshall, Texas, where they lived at 704 East Rusk Street, which was two blocks from her parents' home. His mother returned to work as a clerk at the railroad. She began to use her new residence as a boarding house for several co-workers from the same railroad company.
In June of 1927 he graduated from Marshall High School.
In September of 1927 he began to attend college at Texas Agricultural and Mechanical (Texas A & M), where he studied to become an architectural engineer.
In 1928 his father moved to Los Angeles, California, where he remarried and worked as a salesman of hand-painted billboards that advertised Hollywood movies. At this same time, Tom Smith Roots, Jr. became interested in a career as a commercial artist in advertising. He began to take art classes at school and to submit his paintings to local art shows.
In 1930 won a scholarship to study at the Art Students League of New York.
In June of 1930 he completed his Junior Year at Texas A & M, after which he left college and moved to New York City. He lived at 39 Commerce Street, next door to the historic Cherry Lane Theater in Greenwich Village. He studied at the Art Students League with George Bridgman (1865-1943) and Frank Dumond (1865-1951).
In 1933 he studied at the Grand Central School of Art, where his entire generation of American artists were influenced by the philosophical approach to illustration taught by Harvey Dunn, a renowned disciple of Howard Pyle (1853-1911). According to Harvey Dunn,"If you ever amount to anything at all, it will be because you are true to that deep desire or ideal which made you seek artistic expression."
According to Tom Smith Roots, "I am convinced that art, to realize its fullest potential in the 20th century, should be able to express an idea and move that idea forward to a constructive result, whether it be applied to advertising a product, sales promotion of an idea, or education through graphic arts. There is a question whether aesthetic expression of purely intellectual and emotional appeal is enough to strive for today."
On October 24, 1935 he married Christine Lillian Gist. She was born July 4, 1912 in Texas. The married couple began an annual routine of spending the cold winter months of each year back home in Texas, where they lived with his mother at 702 East Rusk Street in Marshall.
He worked full-time as a draftsman for the N. W. Kellogg Engineering Company, specialists in oil refinery design and construction. The company had offices in Texas as well as the East Coast.
In 1936 he began to moonlight as a freelance artist drawing pen and ink illustrations for pulp magazines. He drew line art for sports, romance, and mystery, but as an artist from Texas his western illustrations had an authentic flavor of the Old West that editors appreciated, so most of his line art for pulp appeared in western magazines, such as Thrilling Western, Red Seal Western, Super Western, Sure-Fire Western, Western Aces, and Western Trails.
These were plentiful but low-paying jobs, which helped him to earn a decent living during the Great Depression.
Tom Smith Roots drew line art story illustrations for pulps for several years before WWII, while he continued to work as a graphic designer, industrial designer, and watercolor artist of landscapes and seascapes.
According to The Dallas Morning News of February 23, 1941, "Art & Artists: In his twenties and well on his way to becoming an artist of note in Texas is Tom Smith Roots, an ex-student of the Texas Agricultural and Mechanical College, is now at the Art Students league in New York. He exhibited with the American Water Color Society and the New York Water Color Club."
In 1942 he was hired by the Chance Vought Aircraft Corporation of Stratford, Connecticut. He and his wife moved to Milford Connecticut, where they lived at 40 Underhill Road. He also moonlighted, in his spare time as freelance artists worked from his home as a graphic artist and industrial designer.
He did not serve in the military during WWII, most likely because employment in an aircraft factory was considered essential to national defense.
In 1951 they moved to 40 Soundview Avenue, Burwell Beach.
In 1953 he opened a graphic arts studio in Milford, CT, at 121 River Street. He designed record album covers for the Pickwick Sales Company, Northern Laboratories, Inc., and Grand Union Foods Company of Paterson, NJ.
On July 29, 1954 he drew portraits at a luncheon and bridge social event at the Milford Yacht Club.
During the 1960s he drew comic books for Charlton. His work appeared in western-theme comics, such as Outlaws of the West, Six-Gun Heroes, Wyatt Earp, Billy The Kid, and Gun Master. His work also appeared in Teen Confessions, Romance, Doctors & Nurses, as well as Drag Strip Hot-Rodders, World of Wheels, Grand Prix and Drag 'n' Wheels.
Tom Smith Roots died in Dallas, Texas, at age of seventy-seven on June 20, 1986.
© David Saunders 2013