Born on January 28, 1932, in Chesterfield County, Virginia, Bliley’s journey was one of academic achievement, military service, and a distinguished political career that spanned several decades.
Early Life and Education:
Bliley’s roots trace back to Chesterfield County, Virginia, where he was born into a Catholic family on January 28, 1932. His educational journey began at Benedictine High School, from which he graduated in 1948 at the remarkable age of 16. Subsequently, he pursued a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., graduating in 1952.
Military Service and Professional Career:
Following his education, Thomas Bliley served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy from 1952 to 1955, demonstrating his commitment to both education and service to his country. Later, he became involved in the family business, the Joseph W. Bliley Co. Funeral Home, where he eventually assumed the role of President.
Beyond the political arena, Thomas Bliley valued family. He was married to Mary Virginia Kelley, and the couple had two children: Mary Vaughan Bliley Utter and Thomas Jerome Bliley III, who sadly passed away on October 2, 2020. Bliley leaves behind a legacy through his five grandchildren, two great-grandsons, and one great-granddaughter.
Bliley’s political journey began in 1968 when he was elected vice-mayor of Richmond, Virginia, a position he held until 1970. He then successfully ran for mayor, maintaining the role until 1977. Originally a conservative Southern Democrat, Bliley later transitioned to the Republican Party after his term as mayor.
In 1980, Bliley secured the Republican nomination for Congress, representing Virginia’s 3rd congressional district. His victory marked a significant shift, as he became the first Republican to win an undisputed victory in the district since the Reconstruction Era. Over the years, Bliley continued to secure reelection, even after redistricting in 1990, which resulted in his district being renumbered as the 7th.
Legacy in Congress:
Thomas Bliley’s influence in Congress extended beyond his electoral victories. In 1995, he was elected Chairman of the House Commerce Committee, a position he held for six years. During this time, he played a pivotal role in crafting legislation, including the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the Food and Drug Administration Modernization Act of 1997, the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act, and the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999, also known as the “Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act.”