Tom was born in Cheriton Fitzpaine in 1858. He came to Exeter when aged 16 and for a number of years worked with the St Anne’s Brewery.
His connection with The Grecians comes from his time as landlord of the Red Lion pub in Sidwell Street which he took on in 1900. Oliver allowed St Sidwell’s United, who started playing at St James Park in 1903, to use the pub as a base. It was here on 31 May 1904 that the St Sidwell’s United AGM was held and the decision to change the Club’s name to Exeter City took place. There was also a vote of thanks for Tom ‘for the use of a dressing room during the season’.
Oliver’s involvement took a further step when the Club turned professional in 1908 and joined the Southern League. Tom became a director and can be seen in the 1910-11 squad photo. He also supported the wider game in Exeter by donating a cup, in 1909, to be competed for by schools in the city.
In June 1909 Tom was instrumental in improving the drainage at St James Park. He got together a group of volunteers to work on the pitch. As a result there was a ‘vast improvement’ according to local newspaper reporter ‘Rover’.
Oliver was a central figure in a scandal in 1912 when an FA inquiry found the Club guilty of financial malpractices. Tom was one of three directors who reported the club to the FA for paying illegal bonuses. He was censured along with a number of other directors.
Tom’s son Reg played for City making his senior debut against Gunnislake in a Plymouth and District League fixture in December 1906. In later years Reg also became a pub landlord and when at the Mount Pleasant advertised on the Exeter City fixture card for the 1926/7 season to continue the family’s support for the club.
Tom Oliver died on 10 February 1937 and is buried in Higher Cemetery, Heavitree.