Thomas D. Hanson

Thomas Dean Hanson of Des Moines, a Jefferson native, passed away at the Wesley on Grand Health Center on April 3, 2024, at age 79.  He had only recently been diagnosed with cancer.

On November 10, 1944, Tom was born to William C. and Ruth Hanson in Jefferson and was raised with five siblings.  He attended Jefferson schools from K through 12. Tom played football and baseball while also participating in band, choir and other activities at JHS until graduating in the Class of 1963. He earned a degree in Political Science at the University of Iowa in 1967, where he served as student body president, and then a law degree from the University of Chicago in 1970.   

After practicing law in Chicago for several years, Tom joined a small firm in Des Moines that evolved into Hanson, Bjork and Russell, a firm he led for nearly forty years.  In 2013, Tom joined Dickinson, Mackaman, Tyler and Hagen, which recently merged as Dickinson, Bradshaw, Fowler and Hagen in Des Moines.  

As a trial lawyer, Tom was a master, respected by friend and foe alike.  The candid comments of another leader of the Iowa trial bar: “Tom was an irascible but superior trial lawyer who was honorable, ethical and gracious to younger lawyers. I was privileged to work with him and against him.”

Tom used his skills in civil and criminal courts for clients ranging from large corporations to the most desperate in society.  Among the many admirers of Tom’s prowess as an advocate was Iowa football legend and fellow attorney Randy Duncan.  Randy once told a partner of his that if he ever was sued, he wanted Tom to defend him in court.  High praise indeed.

Tom was always generous with his time and resources, sometimes to the expense of his own interests and health.  During his long career, he also served as President of the Iowa Defense Counsel Association and was inducted as a Fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers.    

While his first love was law, Tom gained great pleasure in caring for his farm near Rippey.  The rolling land included 160 acres he had set aside as a habitat for Greene County wildlife and pollinators, named for his mother; and he recently had a bioreactor installed to clean agricultural runoff before it reaches the Raccoon River bordering the farm.  

From an early age, Tom showed a brilliant mind and an independence of thought and action. School often bored him, but his mind was a sponge. He had a wicked sense of humor and a savage wit, though friends forgave him for any offense due to that twinkle in his eyes.  Tom’s love for his profession, his family, his community and his planet was sharpened by his relish for debate and controversy.  He was not afraid to challenge convention and push for improvement. We need more like him.

Tom was preceded in death by his parents.  He is survived by his partner, Patricia Kehoe, and five siblings, James Hanson of Iowa City, Jay (Mary) Hanson and Cynthia (Don) Rushing, all of La Jolla, California, Elaine Hanson (Bruce Robbins) of San Diego, California, and Robert (Ann) Hanson of West Des Moines.  He was proud of thirteen nieces and nephews residing in California, Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, New Mexico, Tennessee, and Texas.  He is also missed by his beloved kitty named Lucy who has shared the household for 12 years.

The deceased requested no services.  A celebration for Tom will be held in the near future. Watch the Iles Funeral Homes website at In lieu of flowers, memorials may be directed to the American Lung Association in Iowa, 2530 73rd St, Urbandale, IA 50322, or to the ‘Judge William C. Hanson Pediatric Orthopedic Fund’ at the University of Iowa, c/o Iowa Center for Advancement, One West Park Road, Iowa City, IA 52242.  

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Jefferson, IA 50129

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