Storke Tower: Let There Be Light


Thomas More Storke

Storke Tower stands at the university center of University of California Santa Barbara as an irreplaceable beacon of spreading information in today’s modern digital age. Beneath Storke Tower is the Storke Communication Plaza that houses the offices of the campus Daily Nexus Newspaper and the studios of the radio station KCSB-FM.

This structure was first introduced by Thomas More Storke back in the 1969 at his official dedication for his namesake, which he would help fund. Done in the midst of the 1968 North Hall Takeover and IV bank fire of 1970, the tower is a symbol expressing the freedom of speech and press. Ringing at ten minutes to each hour, the sixty one bells that are at the top of the 190 foot tower spells out the university motto L e t T h e r e B e L i g h t keeping Storke’s memory alive in those bells that chime. If one thinks it’s a nice view to see Storke Tower during the day, it is even more majestic during the night when it seems as if it is touching the stars.

Early Life

Thomas More Storke born on November 23, 1876 is the son of politician Charles A. Storke and Martha Storke, a seventh generation Californian. Growing up he attended public schools and ultimately graduated from Stanford University in 1898 at the age of 22. As he later returned to Santa Barbara, Storke became involved in the newspaper business although he had no prior experience in journalism. Within a few years he was the proud owner of the Daily Independent, it being the weakest of the town’s three papers. In 1913, he would become the owner of the Santa Barbara Daily News allowing him to combine the two papers. In 1932, Storke became the owner of the third paper and thus the Santa Barbara News Press was born.

At the age of thirty eight he started to take up several civic roles such as editor and publisher of the Santa Barbara News Press, a rancher, and postmaster of Santa Barbara for the next seven years. In the 1920s a movement sparked in Santa Barbara to change the overall architectural style of the city to a Spanish theme which was favored by most, but most definitely not by Thomas More Storke. He declared the movement interfered with the constitutional rights of property owners.

November 9, 1938 marked the beginning of Storke’s short Congressional career as he was appointed in the United States Senate, filling a temporary Democrat spot until January 3, 1939. Even though he was never actually sworn into office. Returning back to Santa Barbara after his term, he would return to media. Storke would find the AM radio Station KTMS. He later became a member of the California Crime Commission from 1951 to 1952 as well as serving as a University of California regent from 1955 to 1960 but never truly gave up on writing and editing for his newspapers.

Storke wrote series of editorials in the News-Press in 1961 on the attack done by the John Birch Society on the Eisenhower administration and U.S. Chief Justice Earl Warren as being communists. Due to his actions, he would later win a number of awards, one of which would be the Pulitzer Prize in Journalism.


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Storke later died in 1971 from a stroke in Santa Barbara, only 2 years after Storke Tower dedication, being buried in Santa Barbara Cemetery. Stroke’s contributions to the community included the establishment of the Santa Barbara Municipal Airport, upgrading of Santa Barbara State College to a University of California campus known as UCSB, Lake Cachuma’s water supplying building, and as well as securing 900 acres of coastal land that UCSB stands on today.