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ABOUT FRANK THOMAS:

Close your eyes for a moment and imagine the mid-1930's.  The 1930's of the southern United States.  Jim Crow LawsSegregationLynchings.  Imagine being a young African-American boy born in rural Beech Island, South Carolina during this time.  Picking cotton for White landowners. Having no indoor plumbing.  Attending a one-room, segregated school.  Using water fountains and restrooms labeled "colored". 

Now imagine a journey - a long and winding journey. A journey beginning at the country shack of your birth and replete with sacrifice - the sacrifices of a mother, a grandmother, a grandfather, aunts and uncles. A journey that takes you to the halls of an all-Black Catholic high school where the White nuns and priests were fierce believers in physical discipline, but also fierce believers in equality. Imagine that your journey then takes you to Lackland AFB in San Antonio, Texas which is the start of the road that will lead you to California, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Washington D.C., Japan, Korea and Vietnam. And then imagine that after settling in Syracuse, New York, your journey leads you back to the south.  Augusta, Georgia to be exact and on the heels of a race riot that illustrated that the 1970's south was not so very different from the 1930's south.

Keep your eyes closed - here comes the hard part. Imagine that the little African-American boy, born in a shack with no indoor plumbing, who attended a one-room, segregated school, who picked cotton - imagine that that little boy became the first African-American television journalist in Augusta, Georgia.  Imagine that he won awards and accolades for his reporting. Then, if you can stretch your imagination just a little bit more, imagine his second career as Executive Director of the Augusta-Richmond County Human Relations Commission where he fought for 28 years to ensure equality in education, employment and housing.

This long and winding journey has come full-circle, with every stop along the way connected by one immutable constant - the heartbeat of that little boy and the heartbeat of the man - MUSIC. After retiring in 2009, award-winning journalist, civil-rights activist, in-demand speaker, mediator, singer and songwriter, Frank Thomas, has returned to his (gospel) roots.

 

IN HIS OWN WORDS:

I was raised in a Christian home by my mother and grandmother.  My father died when I was 4 months old leaving my 19 year-old mother alone.  We all lived in the home of "Mama" (my maternal grandmother) and "Papa" (my maternal grandfather).  My mother, whom I called "Mother" or "Mother Dear", had several brothers and sisters who all inundated me with love.  Her oldest brother, my Uncle George, lived nearby and always seemed to have time for me. I will never forget a day when I was about 4 years old and Uncle George had returned to our home from a visit to "town" with Mama.  He and his wife, Aunt Effie, stayed for a while just talking and visiting.  As he prepared to go, he leaned out of the car window and said, "bye baby".  I remember blurting out as loud as I could, with tears streaming down my face, "bye-bye daddy".  Later, I learned that Uncle George had been crying, too. 

Uncle George spent a lot of time with me, including taking me to church all the time.  Without realizing it, I began emulating him.  Uncle George never used vulgar language or profanity.  About the only thing that he would say when he became extremely angry was "confound it" or "daggone it". As a teenager I would hear boys my age cursing, and it bothered me.  I didn't know why.  When I enlisted in the Air Force, just about everyone was cursing and swearing.  I tried to fit in and attempted to "curse", but it never came out right. 

As far back as I can remember I loved all types of music - gospel, blues, country & western, jazz, and pop.  I sang in a number of gospel groups for a while with Johnnie Jones, who later joined the "Singing Sons" who backed up Edna Gallmon Cooke.  The groups and voices that captured my attention in the early years were Archie Brownlee & The Five Blind Boys of Mississippi, as well as Clarence Fountain & The Blind Boys of Alabama.  While I was stationed at Maguire Air Force Base in New Jersey I would spend all of my time off with my aunt and uncle in Philadelphia.  I looked forward to my visits because during just about every one, a guy my age would stop by and he, my Aunt Lillie and anyone else who happened to be there, would strike up a song.  One guy in particular, Howard Tate, would always sing one of the Dixie Hummingbirds' songs, "Somebody Knows When I Am Tempted". 

After being discharged from the Air Force I returned to Beech Island for a short period with my wife, Geneva.  Initially I joined a group called The Dixie Jubilees.  The leader was Clarence Murray, who went on to later fame with the legendary Swanee Quintet.  Later, I joined the Golden Trumpets.  This group was known for its harmonies. 

During this period I began to write gospel songs.  First, I wrote "I Thank Jesus So Much".  Then, a melody came to me, but I couldn't find the words.  Mama couldn't read or write, but OH could she sing and pray!  One day I was sitting on the porch, still struggling to find lyrics for this melody, when I called out to Mama and asked her to help.  Her response was, "Junior, you know I can't sing".  She could though, so I asked her to hum the melody for me.  As she hummed, the words came to me quickly.  The result was "Born to Die".  The Golden Trumpets and I recorded "I Thank Jesus So Much" and "Born to Die" on the Nashboro label in 1961. 

After leaving Syracuse and moving to Augusta in the 1970's I formed my own group called Frank Thomas & The Melodians.  I wrote and recorded several songs with The Melodians, but I took an extended hiatus from singing in the 1980's, except for during church services.  Since retiring in 2009, and finally TRULY opening the door of my heart and letting God come in, I am now on a mission.  That mission is to spend the rest of my life writing and singing God's praises.  My hope is to, with God's help, allow Him to use me as an instrument to bring others to Christ.