CLEARWATER — Thomas, Lord of Shalford, was a man of many talents. He and his wife owned an international real estate company. He advised the military. He was a lawyer and a counterintelligence expert. He spoke several languages and wrote several books.
Lord Thomas also bore a rarer distinction — a title bequeathed by Queen Elizabeth I connecting his family to an English township. He was proud of it — so much so, he changed his name to reflect the title.
In all things, Lord Thomas cut a singular path. A product of privilege, he defied his father by becoming a police officer. Later, he founded a security firm that grew to more than 1,000 employees. He helped reorganize a secret military complex in the 1980s.
Lord Thomas, a Renaissance man with the lineage to prove it, died Saturday. He was 74.
He was born in Milwaukee, as Thomas Joshua Aaron. But the ancestral story starts much earlier, in England.
Queen Elizabeth I needed someone to take over the lordship of Shalford, a township once given by William the Conqueror to his wife, Queen Matilda. The previous title holder had been found guilty of treason.
She chose William Lord Howard of Effingham, making him the Lord of Shalford, a township in the county of Essex, now home to about 750 people.
Fast forward about 400 years to Irvin Aaron, a British banker and a descendant of Lord Howard. Aaron moved to the United States, but arranged for the title's eventual transfer to his son, Thomas. Thomas grew up in attending private schools, living in Milwaukee, Arizona and along the French Riviera.
"There was much hand-wringing" over his decision to become a San Diego police officer, Thomas told the Times in 1980. "I think 'disappointment' would be an understatement."
In 1964, he married Linda Loy, a Revlon model and concert flutist.
By the 1970s, the couple had moved to Pinellas County. The man everyone still knew as Tom Aaron (he wouldn't become Lord Thomas until his father's death in 1988) managed the successful campaign of Sheriff Gerry Coleman. He continued as an unpaid adviser to Coleman until the two men had a falling-out in 1982.
Until the late 1990s, Lord Shalford and his wife ran the Loy Co., an international real estate firm with offices in Miami, London and Hong Kong. He also worked as special counsel supporting the underground Consolidated Space Operations Center in Colorado, as part of then-President Ronald Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative.
In recent years, Lord Shalford published a book about feudalism in colonial American through the Charlotte Museum of History in North Carolina. For its part, the museum reviewed historical documents owned by Lord Thomas, records printed on animal skins with heavy wax seals, and appraised their worth at $187,000.
Unlike many titles that have since been lost, the one Lord Thomas inherited is registered with the English government and confers certain property rights, said John Deichler, a family friend who has spent five years researching feudal titles. For example, Shalford landowners cannot alter their properties, even cut down a tree, without the lord's permission.
"Shalford had a host of real, legal, and usable rights, and these rights will continue to be legally binding to the landowners. … Thus, the title is the rarest of rare," Deichler wrote in an e-mail to the Times.
"If you sat down and read my husband's life, you would say, 'This is fantasy,' " said Linda, Lady of Shalford.
But in storage, she still has the letter conferring title from Queen Elizabeth I, printed in Latin calligraphy on yellowed parchment and dated Feb. 25, 1569.
Information from Times files was used for this story. Andrew Meacham can be reached at (727) 892-2248 or firstname.lastname@example.org.