Return to Main

Mary Tillman

"When you think something is wrong, you can’t always wait for a consensus of those around you before taking action."

Portrait by Stan Cacitti

How She Empowers Others

Mary Spalding was born on October 7, 1955, in Columbus, Ohio. Her family lived in a number of places in the midwest and on the east coast before moving to California in 1972. She married Patrick K. Tillman in 1975, and together she had 3 sons, Patrick, Kevin and Richard.

Mary attended San Jose State University once her youngest son was in third grade.She received a degree in history then went back to school several years later to get special ed credential. She worked for San Jose Unified School District, first as a substitute then as a special education teacher at Bret Harte Middle School

Her son, Pat Tillman, left a NFL career to join the army Rangers after September 11th, was killed in Afghanistan in April 2004, the family and the public were told he was killed in an ambush by the enemy, but he was actually killed by members of his own unit. The suspicious nature of the information received in briefings and in documents caused Mary and her family to call for further investigations
With the help and encouragement of book collaborator Narda Zacchino, family, and friends, and the assistance of supportive political representatives, Mary was able to get two hearings before the Congressional Oversight Committee. In April 24, 2007 hearing, the committee deemed there was a cover up in the death of her son, however the committee has been unable to determine who is responsible for that cover up.

In October 2007, Mary left her teaching position due to obligations with regard to the book she wrote about her son, Boots On The Ground By Dusk: My Tribute to Pat Tillman.

What Empowers Her


Year of Wonders (Geraldine Brooks)

Three Cups of Tea (Greg Mortenson)


"I would rather be ashes than dust!... I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The proper function of man is to live, not to exist." ~Jack London

"Action is the antidote to despair." ~Joan Baez