Thomas Wyatt Binford is best remembered for his connection with the Indianapolis 500 where he served as chief steward for the race from 1974 to 1995, but his contributions to the Indianapolis community extend far beyond the track. His daughter, Florrie Binford Kichler, donated memorabilia from his life, and the collection is now processed and available for researchers.
Binford was born in 1924 in Indianapolis and went to Park School, now Park Tudor. After graduation, he entered at Philips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire with the prospect of entering Princeton University. World War II interrupted Binford’s education. He served with the U.S. Army and was stationed in the Pacific Theater. After the war, Binford continued to serve in the reserves. He resumed his education at Princeton in 1946 and graduated in 1948.
After graduating, Binford went to work with his father, Frank, at the Burnet-Binford Lumber Company and D-A Lubricant, which manufactured a product used by companies for track rollers and heavy equipment. When Frank died in 1954, Tom became president and general manager of D-A Lubricant, a position he held for 19 years. In 1976, Binford was hired as CEO and president of the Indiana National Corporation. Under his leadership, the company recovered from financial trouble. He then formed his own consulting company, Binford and Associates, and served as its CEO until his death in 1999. He also served as interim president of DePauw University in 1975 and was visiting professor of business at IUPUI in the 1980s.
Binford’s connection with the track started long before 1974. From 1955 to 1969, he served as president of the United States Auto Club, the race’s governing body after AAA dropped their connection with the sport. He was also the founding president of Indianapolis Raceway Park in 1958.
Binford’s many civic activities included helping to establish the Indianapolis Urban League in 1965, working with the Anti-Defamation League, the Greater Indianapolis Progress Committee and United Way. In 1975, he was named Man of the Year by The Indianapolis Star. He is credited for helping to keep the Pacers in Indianapolis while serving as the general manager for the 1975/1976 season.