Longtime home building consultant Chuck Shinn calls Tom Buffington "one of the pioneers" of the industry.
Buffington--as unrectifiably a home builder as he was proudly a Texan and Arkansan--passed away last week at his home in Austin, at age 74.
When the smartest people in the business refer to home building as a people business and a local business, Tom, and the company he started in Austin in 1987, and the team of people he brought together in those 32 years, and the families they served in Texas Hill Country and the Austin environs, and the trade suppliers and they partnered with in four-plus decades are what they mean.
For Tom Buffington, being a home builder at all meant being a family-owned and operated company. After growing up, coming of age, and rising to leadership under the careful tutelage of Nash Phillips through the early 1980s, the two fused into an inseparable notion, home building and local--as evidenced in local knowledge of the very dirt upon which a home or community takes shape, the demands of Hill Country climate and contour, and the neighbors themselves.
As a matter of fact, Buffington once said of his mentor Nash Phillips, "He knew every piece of land in Austin, San Antonio, and Houston--who owned it, how much they paid for it, and what the value was." Phillips' generous lessons in the "how to" of this local, people business were not lost on Buffington, who paid that kindness forward to a next generation of home builders, contractors, and land buyers and sellers as he kept true to his one solemn promise, to associates, partners, and customers: "It's important to honor our commitments, ... we do what we say we are going to do when we say we are going to do it."
What Tom Buffington wanted--and what he taught, and trained, and inspired others working alongside him to want and do--was what makes every home builder, and every home builder's business partner tick, and makes each living soul in the industry a local builder.
"We're not just your builder, we're your friends and neighbors too."
Here's some facts about Tom and his life from his family's memorial salute to him last Friday:
After serving as President of NPC [Nash Phillips/Copus Builders, then the largest privately held home builder in the U.S.] Austin - Central Texas in the early 80's, Tom started his own homebuilding company, Buffington Homes, in 1987. In 1996, Tom joined three national homebuilders forming The Fortress Group, a publicly traded holding company that acquired and consolidated local and regional homebuilding companies. Tom served as the Chief Operating Officer and on the Board of Directors until his retirement in 1999. Tom mastered many things in his lifetime, but retirement was not one of them. In 2001, Tom co-founded Buffington Capital Holdings for the purpose of acquiring and developing property for master-planned communities in central Texas. In 2007, he re-entered homebuilding in Austin by restarting Buffington Homes and in 2010 he started Buffington Homes of Arkansas along with partners, Mike Lamberth and Clay Carlton. He served on the board of two banks and on the board of KLRU and was also a member of Austin Country Club.
Tom was born in Newport, Arkansas to Nora and Dewey Buffington on January 3rd, 1945. He was a graduate of Sewanee Military Academy and studied real estate and insurance at The University of Arkansas. He loved and devoted himself to his family and many friends. He stood out among them as a man of great integrity and a leader. He was a mentor to many teaching valuable lessons during his lifetime. Tom was married to his childhood sweetheart, Delia "Dee" Dowell Buffington. They met playing a game of kick the can in the 4th grade. They reconnected and married in 1990. Together they enjoyed traveling and spending time with their combined family of 4 children and 7 grandchildren. Tom loved being surrounded by his grandchildren and they adored their Gdaddy. He loved hunting in South Texas and fishing on the Texas coast. As an avid Razorback sports fan, Tom attended many University of Arkansas football games with his brothers.
Tom is survived by his loving wife Dee, son Blake Buffington and spouse Lea of Austin, daughter Kimberly Buffington Quaid of Los Angeles, son Dow Wright and spouse Jennifer of Austin, and daughter Robin Banister of Austin. He is also survived by his adoring grandchildren Zoe and Garrett Buffington, Thomas and Zoe Quaid, Madeline Banister, and Katy Clare and Hayes Wright as well as his brothers James Gray Buffington, DDS and his wife Martha Ann, Michael Lane Buffington, MD and his wife Dottie Lou and Dewey Lee Buffington Jr. along with faithful family friend, Kelly Cooper, many nieces and nephews and a lifetime of friends.
Tom is preceded in death by his parents Dewey Lee Buffington and Nora Armstrong Buffington and his son-in-law Bret Banister.
Buffington's passing reminds us in real life that we can search far and wide in other business and industry sectors--consumer durables, services, financials, manufactured residential and commercial products, materials supply, etc.--and not find the character, mission, and purpose you do in the home building business community. What sets home building apart is that its human participants work on the dirt, and the job sites, with materials, across time, and with hard-earned money, on what is the most important decision people ever make in their lifetime: their home, their community, their ability to prosper.
The basis of their well-being. Tom Buffington proudly stood for the fact that he and his team of people identified a singularly powerful value around being part of a local, regional community. And he--like so many people working in our business and construction community today--put his heart, soul, and talent into building a people culture empowered to help families access their own well-being and their own dreams.