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Color: Blue
Food: Chicken And Rice
Quote: How Are You?
Season: Fall, Summer
Vacation Destination: Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts
Brooklyn , New York United States
Interview Description:

Biography |

Interview Date: 04/26/2017 |and| 06/28/2017

Nonprofit chief executive Franklin A. Thomas was born on May 27, 1934 in Brooklyn, New York to James and Viola Thomas. Thomas graduated from Franklin K. Lane High School in 1952, where he was a star center on the basketball team. Thomas accepted an academic scholarship from Columbia College, where he continued his basketball career and became the first African American to captain an Ivy League basketball team and was named the league’s most valuable player in 1955 and 1956. Thomas earned his B.A. degree from Columbia in 1956 and went on to earn his L.L.B. degree from Columbia University’s School of Law.

After earning his B.A. degree, Thomas joined the United States Air Forces as a Strategic Air Command Navigator, where he served as a captain from 1956 to 1960. In 1964, he was admitted to the New York State Bar and began his legal career as an attorney at the Federal Housing and Home Finance Agency’s New York office. During the same year, Thomas served as Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. From 1965 to 1967, he served as deputy police commissioner in charge of legal matters for the New York City Police Department. Thomas then began serving as the president and chief executive officer for the Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, a position he held until 1977. As president of the organization, Thomas has been credited with raising approximately $63 million in public and private funds. In 1977, Thomas resumed his private legal practice. However, he only remained in his private practice until 1979, when the Ford Foundation selected him as its president. Thomas served as president of the Ford Foundation from 1979 until 1996, when he continued his career as a consultant.

Thomas has served many organizations throughout his life, often in a leadership position. From 1985 until 1987, he served as chairman of the Secretary of State’s Advisory Committee on South Africa. Thomas has served as chairman for the Study Commission on United States Policy Toward Southern Africa and the September 11th Fund as well. He has also served on the board of directors for the Aluminum Company of America, Avaya, CBS Inc., Cummins Engine Co., Inc., Citicorp/Citibank, and Lucent Technologies. Thomas became a board member for the TFF Study Group, a nonprofit organization dedicated to development in South Africa in 2005.

In 2003, Thomas was named one of four “kingmakers” in corporate America by Fortune magazine, which claimed that his position in some of the country’s largest companies gave him the “power to make other people powerful.”

Thomas lives in New York, New York.

Franklin A. Thomas was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on March 28, 2017.

Speaker Bureau Notes: