Dr. Thomas Needham

December 14, 1928 - October 10, 2019
Dr. Thomas Needham


Dr. Thomas Christopher Needham, DVM 90, of  Wilmington passed away early Thursday, October 10, 2019 at New Hanover Regional Medical Center.

Doc was born in Lakeland, Florida December 14, 1928 the son of the late Jasper Norwood and Virginia Empie Newsome Needham. He was also preceded in death by a brother Jasper Needham, Jr., and his former wife and mother of his children Harriett Smith Needham.

He graduated from Auburn University, College of Veterinary Medicine, in 1952.  After serving two years in the Air Force Veterinary Corp.  He returned home to Wilmington to take over his brother’s practice and established the first Needham Animal Hospital.  He was known nationally for always being on the cutting edge of technology in surgery and medicine.  Tom enlisted the services of consulting specialists from various universities to consult at his practice and would have them provide lectures for veterinarians all over the state.  He was the instrumental founder of the North Carolina Academy of Small Animal Medicine over 50 years ago to promote quality continuing education before the NC State Veterinary College ever existed.   He opened three veterinary hospitals in New Hanover,  lectured at many state and national veterinary meetings and served on boards for the North Carolina Academy of Small Animal Medicine and the North Carolina Veterinary Medical Association.

Tom had many passions in life; he was a licensed pilot and member of the Civil Air Patrol and loved politics.  He was a delegate to the national political convention in 1968.  Through politics he discovered golf.  This was the passion he pursued for the rest of his life.  He played, studied, practiced and learned every aspect of the game.  He was always ready to play and loved to share his wealth of knowledge with anyone willing to listen.  During this past couple of months he has worked with Dr. Jim Hunley in writing a book of his life and golf tips.  The book was just barely finished and fittingly the title is to be “Doc’s Way”, A thinking man’s guide to life and golf.

He was a member of First Baptist Church of Wilmington, a lifetime member of both the American Veterinarian Medical Association and the North Carolina Veterinary Medical Association, the North Carolina Academy of Small Animal Medicine and Cape Fear Country Club.

He is survived by his wife of 42 years, Peggy Holt Needham, and sons Tom Needham, Jr, and partner Dudley Scoggin,  Shreveport, LA, Elliot Nidam-Orvieto and wife Iael, Jerusalem, Israel, and Jerry G. Bell of Wilmington, NC.  Daughters include Jenny Luxton and husband Mike, Lumberton, NC  and Melissa Bell Autry and husband Reggie of Wilmington, NC. He has five grandchildren: Keren, Michael and Nethanel Nidam-Orvieto of Jerusalem and Camden and Torren Autry of Wilmington. He had a special relationship with his nephew, Robert Needham and cousin Dr. Kathy Heinsohn.

A memorial service will be held 2:00 PM Sunday, October 13, 2019 at First Baptist Church. There will be a reception to follow the service at the Cape Fear County Club. A private burial will be held in the family plot at Oakdale Cemetery.

To honor his memory In lieu of flowers donations may be made to Transitions Foundation NC  (Organization helping Autism’s Self Determined for life) 201 N. Front St., Suite 1002, Wilmington, NC  28401  at TMCFunding.com

Share memories and condolences with the family by clicking on the “Condolence” tab.

Wilmington Funeral & Cremation 1535 S. 41st Street, Wilmington, NC 28403  910.791.9099

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  • October 11, 2019
    Butch Morgan says:
    Tom made my dream come true when I got in the golf ️ business at Pine Valley were best friends forever and I always remember what he did for me And Peggy sorry for your loss Always Butch

  • October 11, 2019
    Randy B. Inge says:
    I came with my wife from Virginia to retire in Wilmington five years ago. I was lucky to meet Doc that first year and we and we molded a very special friendship. I saw him often, played golf with him frequently and met him for lunch a lot. He became somewhere between a brother and a father to me - and of course, my golf advisor. He was brilliant, vibrant, compassionate, social, competitive, and most of all fun to be around. I will miss him dearly and I wish his family God's love, comfort and strength in their great loss.

  • October 11, 2019
    Randy B. Inge says:
    I moved to Wilmington from Richmond, Va to retire five years ago. I was extremely lucky to meet Doc within my first few months here. We became terrific friends and enjoyed many lunches and golf games together. Doc was brilliant, compassionate, social, fun, ta great story teller and a darn good golf instructor. I will miss him dearly and wish his family God's love, comfort, and strength in their great loss.

  • October 13, 2019
    ROLAND H HAMBY says:
    Doc Needham was an incredible man and a Christian witness to be admired. He never failed to encourage me in my ministry work and life. I pray that Mrs. Peggy will be comforted by the knowledge that this life is not the end, and she and we in Christ will see him again.

  • October 13, 2019
    Amanda Stone says:
    I have had to contemplate my thoughts over the past couple of days. I worked for Doc for almost 10 years. This was the first job I worked for anyone other than for my parents. I started as a veterinary assistant. I was so intimidated by Doc at first. His knowledge was incredible. Just watching him with each patient and their owner was nothing short of magic. I met so many great veterinarians over that period of time. It was such a great experience watching Doc share his knowledge with each and every one of them. When I started working there I was only 17. The Needham family watched me grow up. Without a the slight push after graduating from college I would never have started my career. I loved working there so much. A couple of things that bring smiles to my face. Doc would always say "If you have time to lean, you have time to clean." He always wanted to make sure that the clients received prompt service especially on the phone. We never let it ring more than 3 times because we never knew if it was Doc calling or not. He would hang up and call again. Then want to know why no one picked up after 3 rings. I watched him countless times pulling the frozen shrimp from the freezer to defrost for Percy. Lastly, going to his house and having Frankie and Boukie cornering me in the kitchen and they wouldn't let me out. Beautiful abyssinian cats but they didn't care too much for me in their kitchen. Lastly, working with Doc over those years taught me so many things about myself. I will always remember those times as the best of times. And I wouldn't have changed a thing except I would love to have had him teach to me to play golf.