Dr. Thomas Connally, whose impact on Arlington and the broader world ranged from medicine and positive aging to education and Democratic politics, died April 2 in Arlington. He was 83.
A recipient (with his wife, former School Board member and state legislator Judy Connally) of Arlington’s James B. Hunter Human Rights Award, Connally’s service as a physician did not come to an end with his retirement from private practice. For five years – 2005 to 2010 – he served as medical director of the Arlington Free Clinic, having also served over the years as a volunteer physician there.
“We are forever grateful for his leadership,” Free Clinic president Nancy White told the Sun Gazette. “He helped us improve our work by sharing the latest medical research – and always brightened our world with his smile. He was like no other.”
In his professional life, Dr. Connally served in the U.S. Public Health Service in the mid-1960s before entering private practice. A native of Norfolk, (Nathaniel) Thomas Connally was a well-regarded internist in the Washington area for decades, providing care to many notables. He served a term as chief of medicine at Sibley Memorial Hospital.
In 2001, he was the author of “The Third Third,” a guidebook for those seeking to have a healthy life in their retirement years.
Dr. Connally was a frequent lecturer with Encore Learning, and served on the board of governors of the University of Virginia, where he had earned both a bachelor’s degree and his medical degree. (Upon his death, it was revealed that Connally had been a member of the Secret Seven, a fraternal and philanthropic society at the university whose members remain publicly nameless during their lifetimes.)
The Connallys were married in 1964 and, though they had their independent interests and endeavors, decidedly were a team.
“We’re talking about two people with a social conscience,” former U.S. Sen. Charles Robb said during a 2017 garden party honoring the pair at the Culpepper Garden apartment complex for low-income seniors. “They have made an everlasting difference in all the people whose lives they have touched.”
At that event, Thomas Connally said Arlington was a community of people who gave back.
“It’s a wonderful place to be, an incredible place,” he said. “We take care of many of our needy people.”
Dr. Connally also was active in Democratic politics from the local level on up, starting more than a half-century ago when he and other mostly young, liberal arrivals to the community worked to wrest control of the Arlington County Democratic Committee from a more conservative bloc that had backed (and been backed by) the Byrd political machine.
He was a Virginia representative on the presidential campaign of Robert Kennedy in 1968, was a longtime precinct captain in Rock Spring, and served as a delegate to the 2004 Democratic National Convention.
In addition to his wife, Dr. Connally is survived by a son, N. Thomas Connally; two daughters, Anne Regan and Katherine Connally; as well as five grandchildren and other family members.
The family suggests that contributions in his memory be made to the Arlington Free Clinic.