How Tom Hanks’ grandfather’s murder changed him forever

From Saving Private Ryan to Cast Away, actor Tom Hanks has been at the center of countless fictional tragedies. Now, however, the Oscar-winner is finally opening up about his grandfather’s tragic murder and the profound effect it had on his father, Amos Mefford Hanks. 

During a September 2020 episode of In Depth with Graham Bensinger, Hanks spoke candidly about his late grandfather’s murder and the tremendous amount of trauma and grief his father, Amos, experienced after witnessing the event at a very young age. “My dad got a raw deal when he was a very young man because he happened to witness the murder of his father in a fight,” Hanks recalled. “He was 8 or 9 or 10 years old and a hired hand killed his father in the barn of the farm that they were growing up in Willows, California.”

Although he was “one of four kids,” Hanks noted that his father “was the only one there” when the elder Hanks was killed. As one can imagine, witnessing such a harrowing incident at such an early age would more than likely cause lasting effects. Keep reading to learn how Hanks said the incident changed his father’s life forever.

Tom Hanks' grandfather's murder 'ruined' his father

During an interview with Graham Bensinger, Hollywood icon Tom Hanks confided that his dad, Amos Mefford Hanks, was forever changed by his father’s killing. “He was broken by that experience. He had to go testify as a kid three times, with the lawyers and a judge and a flag and ‘Do you hear by solemnly swear…,'” he explained. “It was a contentious fight by self-defense — because it was a fight. The man [who killed Amos’ father] was acquitted.” Hanks even went as far as to say that Amos was “ruined” by the experience. “It robbed him of a carefree life. It robbed him of a sense of fairness in the world,” he explained. “It was a black mark of injustice and unfairness that landed squarely on his young shoulders.” Absolutely heartbreaking.

But how did the killing effect Hanks exactly? It appears that Hanks might think that his father’s grief trickled down and manifested in all parts of his life, including his relationship with Hanks’ mother, Janet Frager. According to Hanks, his father simply “fell through the cracks” after his marriage to Frager ended. Subsequently, Hanks’ childhood was impacted, as well. “I didn’t really have adults per se that were taking care of me,” the actor confessed. Hanks was adamant however, that his physical needs were always met and he was never abused. Although Amos may have not been able to pursue his dreams, we’re certain that his dreams are living on in the life of his incredibly talented and successful son. 

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