Throughout the years, the Alamo City has played host to some colorful and courageous personalities. Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie, and Theodore Roosevelt instantly come to mind. But perhaps the most flamboyant San Antonio figure was the celebrated millionaire and adventurer Tom Slick.
Though he was born in Pennsylvania and raised in Oklahoma, it was while living in Texas, and particularly his beloved San Antonio, that this jet-setting explorer had his greatest impact. Most old-timers in the Alamo City remember the handsome and dashing oil tycoon, inventor, and art collector who founded well-known Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research (now Texas Biomed) and Mind Science Foundation, owned his own airstrip, and traveled the world hunting and fishing, often in search of hidden treasures and mysterious creatures.
Slick came from an influential family and he was smart: attending Yale, Harvard, and M.I.T while majoring in engineering, the natural sciences, and medicine. Tom loved intrigue and exploration. While in college, he made a trek to Scotland with some friends, in order to investigate reports of the Loch Ness Monster.
In 1957, after he had made his fortune, Slick organized a pair of expeditions to search for the abominable snowman, or Yeti, of the Himalayas, complete with an official endorsement from the San Antonio Zoo! During the first trip, he was badly hurt in a bus accident, but still succeeded in discovering tracks and other evidence that made him a firm believer. In 1959, Tom shifted his focus to northern California and backed some of the earliest and most noteworthy Bigfoot expeditions ever organized.
Slick also mounted searches for the mysterious, apelike Orang-pendek of Sumatra, as well as giant salamanders in northern California and enormous fish that were sighted in Alaska’s Lake Illiamna. Tragically, Tom Slick died in an airplane crash over Montana in 1962 at the age of forty-six. But the legacy that he left behind stands as an inspiration to me and to those intrepid explorers who view the world as being full of mystery still. – Ken Gerhard