With an actor as famous as Tom Hanks, who’s often affectionately labeled as “America’s dad,” it’s all too easy to remember their professional accomplishments and not ponder their personal lives. In Hanks' case, some parts of his personal life have been rather open, like the health scare he had earlier this year. But recently, Hanks told a tragic story about his family, as his father, Amos Mefford Hanks, witnessed his own father being killed.
When Tom Hanks was asked in an interview how aware he was of his father’s dreams, he responded with the following:
Well, my dad got a raw deal. When he was a very young man because he happened to witness the murder of his father in a fight. He was 8 or 9 or 10 years old, and a hired hand killed his father in the barn of the farm that they were growing up in Willows, California. He was one of four kids and he was the only one there. And he was broken by that experience. He had to go and testify as a kid three times. With the lawyers, and the judge, and the flag ‘Do you hereby solemnly swear?’ It was a contentious fight, the man was acquitted because it was a fight. But his father was killed and he witnessed that.
I can’t imagine what it’s like to witness such an awful event at any age, let alone as a young boy. Amos Hanks was born in 1924, so his father being murdered would have happened somewhere between 1932-1934. Understandably, this incident scarred Amos, with Tom Hanks continuing in his conversation with In Depth with Graham Bensinger’s title host:
It ruined him. It robbed him of a carefree life. It robbed him of a sense of fairness in the world. It was a black mark of injustice and unfairness that landed squarely on his very young shoulders. It wasn’t right that he saw it.
Tom Hanks added that he doesn’t know what his father’s relationship was like with his grandfather, though the actor described Amos’ mother as a “very religious woman.” Alas, because Amos witnessed his father’s murder, he ended up becoming the black sheep of the family. Furthermore, Tom Hanks noted that this tragedy resulted in Amos never really communicated any great joy from anything that happened in his life until he married Tom’s stepmother, Frances Wong. But as far as Amos’ artistic desires went, namely wanting to be a writer, “life didn’t deal him the cards” to go off and pursue that.
You can listen to Tom Hanks talk more about his father in the video below.
Amos Hanks passed away in 1992, so he was still able to see his son become famous from movies like Splash, Big and Turner & Hooch, as well as the TV show Bosom Buddies. Tom Hanks also talked about how his relationship with his father impacted the performance he gave in 1986’s Nothing in Common, where he costarred alongside The Honeymooners star Jackie Gleason.
As far as Tom Hanks’ current work goes, he’s most recently been seen/heard in last year’s Toy Story 4 and A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, and this year’s Greyhound. Hanks’ upcoming movies include News of the World, BIOS and Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis Presley biopic, the latter of which has resumed filming in Australia after having to pause production back in March.