Thomas Ross Bond was born September 16, 1926 in Dallas, Texas. Bond was best known for his work as a child actor in the Our Gang (Little Rascals) comedies, and also for being the first actor to portray the role of "Superman's pal" Jimmy Olsen on screen.
Bond got his start at the age of five when a talent scout for Hal Roach studios approached the lad as he was leaving a Dallas cinema with his mother. The scout asked him if he would like to act in films because he "had a great face" and set up an appointment with Hal Roach in Los Angeles. Hal Roach was gathering new talent for his popular Our Gang comedies. Bond's grandmother Jane Quin Sauter volunteered to drive the boy to L.A. by motor car. The year was 1931, in the depth of the Great Depression. It proved to be a grueling journey, punctuated by flash floods and encounters with tarantulas, on mostly dirt roads from Dallas to L.A.
Bond was most notable for appearing in Roach's Our Gang short subjects series (later broadcast on television as The Little Rascals). From 1932 to 1934, he appeared in the series under his own name as a supporting character. He returned to Our Gang in 1937 as a bully character, named Butch, who always competed with Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer for Darla Hood's affections. Bond appeared in twenty-seven Our Gang shorts (twelve shorts as "Tommy," and fourteen shorts as "Butch") before leaving the series for good in late 1940.
While an Our Ganger, Bond appeared in a number of outside films, such as those featuring fellow Hal Roach Studios comedians Charley Chase and Laurel and Hardy. He also worked as a voice actor, most notably as the voice of "Owl Jolson" in Tex Avery's 1936 Looney Tunes cartoon, I Love to Singa.
After serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II, Bond returned to acting ,and appeared in a handful of East Side Kids, and Gas House Kids features alongside former on-screen rival Carl Switzer. In the late 1940s, Bond became the first actor to portray cub news photographer Jimmy Olsen in two Superman film serials, Superman (1948) and Atom Man vs. Superman (1950). He also appeared as Joey Pepper in several installments of the Five Little Peppers serial.
In 1951, Bond graduated from college and quit acting to stay in show business on the other side of the camera in television directing and production, and worked with individuals such as Norman Lear, George Schlatter, and many others. Bond retired from television in 1991. In his latter years he lived in the Fresno and Madera Ranchos area, and served as a spokesman for a number of Our Gang-related materials. Bond published his autobiography, Darn Right It's Butch: Memories of Our Gang/The Little Rascals, with the help of Fresno teacher, film historian and co-author Ron Genini, in 1994. Tommy and his son, Thomas R. Bond II "Butch, Jr.", who is a film and television producer, worked with his father in their family production company, the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company. Bond also hosted "The Rascals," a documentary on the life and times of the Little Rascals.
Throughout his lifetime, Bond appeared in over 73 films, was a charter member of the Screen Actors Guild, joining in 1937, and worked with many Hollywood stars in the years of 1933 to 1951, including James Stewart, Eleanor Powell, Ray Bolger, Frank Morgan, and Eddie Cantor among many others.
Even though Bond had a career that spanned over 65 years he never received his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
In 2004 a monument was dedicated on Hollywood and Vine commemorating the first movie made in Hollywood, made by Bond's company, American Mutoscope and Biograph Company. Less than a year later, the 2.8 ton monument was stolen in April, 2005. Bond felt because of the monument's size, it had to have been an "inside job." Bond was so upset, he swore that the company would never shoot any project in the district of Hollywood. Quoting Bond "The Hollywood I grew up in used to be a wonderful and magical place, with great folks. Now it is somewhere I would never want to be."
Tommy Bond, Sr. died on September 24, 2005 due to complications from heart disease in Los Angeles, California. Bond died just eight days after his 79th birthday. He is buried at Riverside National Cemetery in Riverside, Calif.
Bond's legacy to his fans around the world will live on, and his dedicated work in the entertainment industry has earned him great respect and admiration among his peers and the public.