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Thomas, Lowell

Thomas, Lowell

Promoter
Enshrined 1992 1892-1981

Thomas persuaded the commander of a front line fighter plane base to let him have a P-51 and a pilot to fly him over Berlin as it burned under the barrage of Allied bombing in the final days of the war. “I knew ‘Hap’ Arnold, who was then commander of the U.S. Army Air Corps, and that made it a little easier to get around,” Thomas said, “We had crashed together in a Curtiss Jenny years before the war, and you get to know somebody pretty well when you crash with him.”

    Pioneer broadcaster, writer and lecturer. He became one of the first war correspondents during World War I and covered the exploits of Lawrence of Arabia.
    His broadcast career began in March 1925 at KDKA in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He narrated the first aerial circumnavigation of the earth.
    In 1945, he described the final battle between the Germans and Russians from a P-51 Mustang.
    He participated in the first flight across the Antarctic from Africa to Australia, from Cape Town to McCurdo Sound and on to New Zealand.
      Lowell, with his son, wrote a book in 1969 entitled

Famous First Flights that Changed History.

 

Biography

Lowell Thomas was a world traveler, lecturer, profile writer and pioneer broadcaster. His network radio evening newscasts began in 1930 and continued until 1976, a mark unparalleled in the broadcast industry.

Thomas was born in Woodington, Ohio in 1892. His family moved to Cripple Creek, Colorado, a gold camp, in 1900. Despite the cultural isolation, Thomas’s parents insisted that their son receive a good education and learn how to speak clearly and distinctly.

A bright student, Thomas earned a bachelor’s degree in 1911 from the University of Northern Indiana after only two years of study. Between 1912 and 1914 Thomas was a reporter for the Chicago Journal and attended Kent College of Law, where he also taught oratory.

During World War I, President Woodrow Wilson commissioned Thomas to roam the battle areas and make an historical record of the course of the war. While carrying out this assignment Thomas came into contact in Arabia with the legendary T.E. Lawrence, who was then leading the Arabs in their revolt against the Ottoman Turks. Thomas’s vivid reporting of the revolt, described later in a series of lectures and films and in his book With Lawrence in Arabia, was the first detailed public account of the desert campaign.

It contributed a great deal to Lawrence’s fame and brought immediate success to Thomas. Thomas began his broadcast career in March 1925 over KDKA, Pittsburgh. He started with a one-hour program in which he narrated the successful story of the first aerial circumnavigation of the globe. The War Department had appointed Thomas to act as the flight’s historian. The feat was comparable to Magellan’s first circumnavigation by sea.

In 1935 Thomas became the voice of Fox Movietone News, the newsreel service widely distributed throughout movie houses in the United States. He narrated the newsreels for the next 17 years, and an audience of almost 100 million people heard him weekly.

In the spring of 1945 Thomas broadcast reports to America on the Second World War from a mobile truck behind the front lines. He flew over Berlin in a P-51 Mustang describing the final battle between the Germans and the Soviets.

Upon his return from Europe, Thomas set off on a round-the-world flight to assemble material on the Pacific War. This journey included broadcasts from Cairo, New Delhi, Manila, and Okinawa. General Henry “Hap” Arnold, Chief of Staff of the Air Force, joined him on the first half of the trip.

In 1952, Thomas pioneered the wide screen filming technique known as Cinerama. It was a natural for showing audiences the sights and sounds of the world, but for 14 years had been confined to the laboratory because of doubts about its commercial possibilities. Thomas narrated several Cinerama films, including This is Cinerama and Seven Wonders of the World. For more than a year, Thomas supervised two planes and two Cinerama crews that roved the world, bringing back the wonders of the planet. He even made a flight around the world himself to supervise production.

At the age of 65, Thomas traveled to the North Pole, New Guinea, the Sahara Desert, Nepal and the desert of northern Australia in preparation for a television series called High Adventure, which regularly secured some of the largest audiences ever obtained by American television.

In 1963, Thomas accompanied U.S. Navy airmen to Antarctica. In September he participated in the first flight across Antarctica from Africa to Australia, from Cape Town to McCurdo Sound and on to New Zealand. Thomas and his son, Senator Lowell Thomas of Alaska, authored a book in 1969 entitled Famous First Flights That Changed History.

In the early seventies, Thomas was a member of a crew that flew a 36,000 mile journey which included an inaugural passenger flight from the United States to Siberia.

After he retired from CBS radio in 1976, Thomas worked on a PBS television series called Lowell Thomas Remembers, a personal account of his travels and world events. Thomas once said that his ambition was, “To know more about this globe than anyone else ever has.” Thomas’s travels and adventures all over the world were widely followed in the United States in whatever medium he chose: radio, film, television or in any of the numerous books he wrote. His ability to effectively communicate his experiences rested largely on his enthusiasm and determination, which never left him.

Lowell Thomas died on August 29th, 1981 at the age of 89.

For more information on Lowell Thomas, you may want to visit the following websites:

Radio Hall of Fame
PBS Lawrence of Arabia