In Memory of Tom Sanders

This year during Kentucky Archaeology Month, staff were sad to learn of the recent passing of our former colleague, Tom Sanders, who retired from KHC as Site Protection program administrator in 2004 after 30 years with the agency. Tom started out as a staff archaeologist working on a comprehensive statewide archaeological survey. He subsequently supervised archaeological activities and education, worked with historic buildings and grants administration, and led the agency’s Section 106 project review team (required by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 for federal projects with the potential to impact historic and prehistoric sites).

Tom hailed from Winchester and earned a B.A. in anthropology from the University of Kentucky, studied anthropology and archaeology at Southern Methodist University, then earned a master’s degree in anthropology from UK in 1983. Once he left KHC, Tom went to work for FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) as a disaster assistance employee in the areas of environment and historic preservation. He was father to two adult children, Erin and Will, owned a historic home, and collected antiques.

Tom was author and editor of “Specifications for Conducting Fieldwork and Preparing Cultural Resource Assessment Reports,” a comprehensive guide published in 1991 for archaeologists and consultants working throughout the Commonwealth, among the first of its kind in the country. He was also author of or contributor to more than 50 peer-reviewed publications.

“Tom loved and was dedicated to Kentucky archaeology,” said former KHC executive director and state historic preservation officer (SHPO), David L. Morgan, who retired in 2006. “He was a strong advocate for the protection of Kentucky’s resources, and he worked closely with federal and state agencies to ensure that they considered archaeological sites as part of project planning.”


“Tom was one of my earliest mentors and friends at KHC and someone I respected greatly and learned a tremendous amount from,” said Craig Potts, current executive director and SHPO. “While Tom was passionate about archaeology and early Kentucky architecture and history, he was particularly shrewd at negotiating the Section 106 federal review process, and he took great pride in his ability to develop well-considered agreement documents that memorialized the protection of historic and prehistoric resources that were threatened by federal undertakings.”

“Tom was known to be opinionated and head-strong when it came to the proper consideration of irreplaceable cultural assets, and he was unapologetic when fighting for them,” Craig added. “In his long career with this agency, it would be impossible to count the number of sites that were properly protected, studied, and more fully understood under his watch. I am grateful, as we all should be, for the contributions Tom made to the preservation of Kentucky’s cultural inheritance.”


By: Diane Comer

Kentucky Heritage Council