I've been pleased by the stories of his personal kindness in my Twitter feed since he died on Monday, at age 88 - and a little surprised, given the multifaceted antagonism he enjoyed provoking for half a century.
Other notable works from Wolfe include 1968's The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test-detailing Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters' journey across America-and 1979's The Right Stuff, about the first astronauts.
He coined expressions such as "radical chic", for rich liberals fascinated with revolutionaries, and the "me generation", which nailed the self-absorption of 1970s baby boomers. In addition to the aforementioned "Bonfire of the Vanities" and "The Right Stuff" - novels that were later recaptured as Hollywood feature films - he wrote theatrical and entertaining stories for magazines such as Esquire, Harper's, and NY magazine.
"Tom Wolfe is a legend whose unique and innovative writing style changed the face of journalism, satire, and storytelling", said New York Public Library president Anthony W. Marx.
Wolfe was also famous for his dapper "Southern gentleman" look, often appearing in public in a pristine white suit, white homburg hat, and two-tone shoes.
The Right Stuff, Wolfe's 1979 account of the early days of the USA space program and the test pilots recruited for it, remains his best-selling work.
His first try at fiction was The Bonfire of the Vanities in 1987, which captured the cultural feel of free-wheeling Wall Street "masters of the universe" as well as his non-fiction books did.
If you're looking for a glimpse into the mind of Tom Wolfe, look no further than the New York Public Library. I had the same lack of education, and in 1984 I presumed to become Time's architecture and design critic.
Wolfe followed with more novels - A Man in Full about race, big money and high society in Atlanta; I Am Charlotte Simmons, a tale of college high life and Back to Blood about immigrants in Florida in 2012. He'd never leave the city, making a home there with his wife Sheila and their two children until his death.