Friends remember former Suffolk leader Underwood for wisdom, love of reading

Published 8:38 pm Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Former Suffolk mayor, City Council member and assistant city manager Thomas Underwood is remembered for his friendship and love for Suffolk.

Underwood died Feb. 19 at age 91.

Underwood, who was born in Prince George County, grew up in Suffolk. After serving in the Navy during the Korean War, he moved with his wife and family to the Holland area, where they lived for over 50 years. Underwood spent his last years at Lake Prince Woods “catching up with old friends.”


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In 1964, Underwood started his career with Nansemond County, then moved to the City of Suffolk. He spent 27 years serving the city and making lifelong connections with those he served alongside. He served as zoning administrator and assistant city manager and occasionally as acting city manager. He retired in 1991, but still continued his service to Suffolk.

From 1994 to 1998 he served on the Suffolk City Council, representing the Holy Neck Borough. He served as mayor from 1996 to 1998. Vice Mayor Leroy Bennett remembered serving with Underwood on City Council.

“After he left I would occasionally see him at Hardee’s on 58,” said Bennett. “He always asked about the city and making sure it was heading in the right direction. We had a great working and friendly relationship. He was a great person and loved Suffolk.”

Even though Underwood never went to college, many remember him for his wisdom and love for learning. Former City Manager Jim Vacalis commended the support and friendship Underwood provided as a mentor and friend throughout the years.

“His wisdom meant so much to me,” said Vacalis. “He was a true gentleman with a wonderful sense of humor. I will dearly miss him.”

Vacalis recalled Underwood’s love of history and his great memory. Underwood was always reading.

“He would look at us and go, ‘Remember when this happened?’ ” Vacalis said. “It would be something that took place around 30 years before and we’d look at him and go, ‘How do you remember that?’ ”

A public visitation is planned from 1-3 p.m. Saturday, March 12, at R.W. Baker & Co. Funeral Home, 509 W. Washington St., with a reception following at the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts, 110 Finney Ave.