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Franklin A. Thomas

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Information about Franklin A. Thomas

Profile image of Franklin A. Thomas

Profession

Category:
CivicMakers
LawMakers
Occupation(s):
Foundation Executive
Lawyer

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Chicken And Rice
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall, Summer
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts
Favorite Quote:
How Are You?

Birthplace

Born:
5/27/1934
Birth Location:
Brooklyn, New York

Profession

Category:
CivicMakers
LawMakers
Occupation(s):
Foundation Executive
Lawyer

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Chicken And Rice
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall, Summer
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts
Favorite Quote:
How Are You?

Birthplace

Born:
5/27/1934
Birth Location:
Brooklyn
See how Franklin A. Thomas is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Foundation executive and lawyer Franklin A. Thomas was born on May 24, 1934 in Brooklyn, New York to James and Viola Thomas. He graduated from Franklin K. Lane High School in 1952, and attended Columbia University, where he played basketball, 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 University in 1956 and went on to earn his L.L.B. degree from Columbia Law School in 1963.

After earning his B.A. degree, Thomas joined the U.S. Air Force as a strategic air command navigator, where he served as 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, where he established the Civilian Complaint Review Board. From 1967 to 1977, Thomas served as president and chief executive officer for the Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, and was credited with raising approximately $63 million in public and private funds, and serving in the forefront of community redevelopment efforts. In 1977, Thomas resumed his private legal practice, until 1979, when he was selected to serve as the first African American president of the Ford Foundation, where he served until 1996.

Thomas served as the chairman of the Rockefeller Foundation-funded Study Commission on U.S. Policy Toward South Africa from 1979 to 1981, and produced the comprehensive, groundbreaking report on apartheid, Time Running Out. He went on to serve as a member of the U.S. Secretary of State’s Advisory Committee on South Africa from 1985 to 1987.

Thomas served as chairman of the Secretary of State’s Advisory Committee on South Africa, the Study Commission on United States Policy Toward Southern Africa, and the September 11th Fund. 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. In 2005, Thomas founded the TFF Study Group, a nonprofit organization dedicated to development in South Africa in 2005.

Thomas is the recipient of numerous awards, including: The Lyndon Baines Johnson Award for “Contributions to the Betterment of Urban Life,” the John Jay and Alexander Hamilton Awards from Columbia College, and Columbia Law School’s James Kent Medal for distinguished professional achievement. He is also the recipient of Columbia University’s Medal of Excellence. He has been granted honorary degrees from Bank Street College, Columbia University, Fordham University, New School University, Pace University, Pratt University and Yale University. In 2003, Thomas was named one of four “kingmakers” in corporate America by Fortune magazine.

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

See how Franklin A. Thomas is related to other HistoryMakers
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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Franklin A. Thomas narrates his photographs, pt. 1
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Franklin A. Thomas narrates his photographs, pt. 2
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Slating of Franklin A. Thomas' interview, session 1
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Franklin A. Thomas lists his favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Franklin A. Thomas talks about his parents' migration to New York City
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Franklin A. Thomas lists his siblings
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Franklin A. Thomas remembers the drum and bugle corps at the Concord Baptist Church in Brooklyn, New York
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Franklin A. Thomas recalls his childhood activities
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Franklin A. Thomas describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Franklin A. Thomas remembers the gang activity in Brooklyn, New York
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Franklin A. Thomas talks about his interactions with gangs in New York City
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Franklin A. Thomas describes his mother's influence
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Franklin A. Thomas recalls an altercation between his mother and her boarders
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Franklin A. Thomas remembers his maternal uncle
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Franklin A. Thomas recalls lessons from his mother
  • Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Franklin A. Thomas describes his experiences at J.H.S. 33 in Brooklyn, New York
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Franklin A. Thomas talks about his early education
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Franklin A. Thomas describes his high school basketball career
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Franklin A. Thomas describes his summer position at an architectural firm
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Franklin A. Thomas describes his experiences at Columbia University in New York City
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Franklin A. Thomas remembers his coursework at Columbia University
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Franklin A. Thomas recalls his challenges at Columbia University
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Franklin A. Thomas reflects upon his time at Columbia University
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Franklin A. Thomas recalls his NAACP activities at Columbia University
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Franklin A. Thomas describes his experiences on the basketball team at Columbia University
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Franklin A. Thomas talks about his perception of racism
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Franklin A. Thomas describes his service in the U.S. Air Force
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Franklin A. Thomas describes his role in the Strategic Air Command
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Franklin A. Thomas talks about his basketball records at Columbia University
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Franklin A. Thomas talks about his mother's emphasis on self-determination
  • Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Franklin A. Thomas remembers his older sisters
  • Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Franklin A. Thomas recalls his mother's emphasis on education
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Franklin A. Thomas talks about his travels with the U.S. Air Force
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Franklin A. Thomas recalls how he became a navigator in the U.S. Air Force
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Franklin A. Thomas describes his decision to attend Columbia Law School in New York City
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Franklin A. Thomas describes his experiences at Columbia Law School
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Franklin A. Thomas recalls being hired at the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Franklin A. Thomas remembers prosecuting a domestic terrorism case, pt. 1
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Franklin A. Thomas remembers prosecuting a domestic terrorism case, pt. 2
  • Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Franklin A. Thomas describes how he became deputy police commissioner of New York City
  • Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Franklin A. Thomas remembers New York City Mayor John Lindsay
  • Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Franklin A. Thomas talks about the Civilian Complaint Review Board of the New York City Police Department, pt. 1
  • Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Franklin A. Thomas talks about the Civilian Complaint Review Board of the New York City Police Department, pt. 2
  • Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Franklin A. Thomas recalls the corruption in the New York City Police Department
  • Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Franklin A. Thomas talks about his relationship with the Harlem Clubhouse
  • Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Franklin A. Thomas remembers Earl G. Graves, Sr.
  • Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Franklin A. Thomas describes the creation of the Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation
  • Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Franklin A. Thomas recalls becoming president of the Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, pt. 1
  • Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Franklin A. Thomas recalls becoming president of the Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, pt. 2
  • Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Franklin A. Thomas talks about the leaders of the Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation
  • Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Franklin A. Thomas remembers the Community Home Improvement Program
  • Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Franklin A. Thomas recalls the problems in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York
  • Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Franklin A. Thomas describes his challenges at the Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation
  • Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Franklin A. Thomas describes the gentrification of the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York
  • Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Franklin A. Thomas talks about his legacy at the Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation
  • Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Franklin A. Thomas describes the financial success of the Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation
  • Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Franklin A. Thomas reflects upon his time at the Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation
  • Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Franklin A. Thomas describes his relationship with Vernon E. Jordan, Jr., pt. 1
  • Tape: 7 Story: 10 - Franklin A. Thomas describes his relationship with Vernon E. Jordan, Jr., pt. 2
  • Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Franklin A. Thomas remembers meeting John Hay Whitney
  • Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Franklin A. Thomas describes the Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation's cable television venture
  • Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Franklin A. Thomas talks about his wife, Kate Roosevelt Whitney
  • Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Franklin A. Thomas describes his board memberships
  • Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Franklin A. Thomas recalls how he became the president of the Ford Foundation
  • Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Franklin A. Thomas talks about his corporate board memberships
  • Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Franklin A. Thomas reflects upon his experience as an African American in Corporate America
  • Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Franklin A. Thomas recalls his tenure on the board of Citibank, N.A.
  • Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Franklin A. Thomas remembers his invitation to the board of Citibank, N.A.
  • Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Franklin A. Thomas describes his transition to the Ford Foundation, pt. 1
  • Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Franklin A. Thomas describes his transition to the Ford Foundation, pt. 2
  • Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Franklin A. Thomas remembers his tenure at the Ford Foundation, pt. 1
  • Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Franklin A. Thomas remembers his tenure at the Ford Foundation, pt. 2
  • Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Franklin A. Thomas talks about his successor at the Ford Foundation
  • Tape: 9 Story: 8 - Franklin A. Thomas describes his changes to the Ford Foundation, pt. 1
  • Tape: 9 Story: 9 - Franklin A. Thomas describes his changes to the Ford Foundation, pt. 2
  • Tape: 10 Story: 1 - Franklin A. Thomas lists his charitable board memberships
  • Tape: 11 Story: 1 - Slating of Franklin A. Thomas' interview, session 2
  • Tape: 11 Story: 2 - Franklin A. Thomas remembers his basketball teammate, Albert Vann
  • Tape: 11 Story: 3 - Franklin A. Thomas describes his decision to attend Columbia University
  • Tape: 11 Story: 4 - Franklin A. Thomas talks about the importance of education
  • Tape: 11 Story: 5 - Franklin A. Thomas remembers the student protests at Columbia University
  • Tape: 11 Story: 6 - Franklin A. Thomas recalls the student protests on South Africa
  • Tape: 11 Story: 7 - Franklin A. Thomas describes the black community at Columbia University
  • Tape: 11 Story: 8 - Franklin A. Thomas describes his mother's lessons about racial discrimination
  • Tape: 12 Story: 1 - Franklin A. Thomas remembers Robert M. Morgenthau
  • Tape: 12 Story: 2 - Franklin A. Thomas remembers the conspiracy to bomb the Statue of Liberty
  • Tape: 12 Story: 3 - Franklin A. Thomas talks about mandatory minimum sentences
  • Tape: 12 Story: 4 - Franklin A. Thomas describes his decision to leave the U.S. attorney's office
  • Tape: 12 Story: 5 - Franklin A. Thomas remembers Police Commissioner Howard R. Leary
  • Tape: 12 Story: 6 - Franklin A. Thomas talks about Robert F. Kennedy's commitment to the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York
  • Tape: 12 Story: 7 - Franklin A. Thomas describes his early involvement with the Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation
  • Tape: 12 Story: 8 - Franklin A. Thomas talks about the rising property values in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York
  • Tape: 13 Story: 1 - Franklin A. Thomas recalls the early leaders of the Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation
  • Tape: 13 Story: 2 - Franklin A. Thomas talks about his start at the Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation
  • Tape: 13 Story: 3 - Franklin A. Thomas describes the Bedford-Stuyvesant Development and Services Corporation
  • Tape: 13 Story: 4 - Franklin A. Thomas remembers dissolving the Bedford-Stuyvesant Development and Services Corporation
  • Tape: 13 Story: 5 - Franklin A. Thomas remembers John Doar
  • Tape: 13 Story: 6 - Franklin A. Thomas remembers the staff of the Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation
  • Tape: 13 Story: 7 - Franklin A. Thomas describes his role on the Knapp Commission
  • Tape: 13 Story: 8 - Franklin A. Thomas talks about the Knapp Commission
  • Tape: 14 Story: 1 - Franklin A. Thomas talks about the history of Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, New York
  • Tape: 14 Story: 2 - Franklin A. Thomas recalls his early interactions with the Ford Foundation
  • Tape: 14 Story: 3 - Franklin A. Thomas describes the Ford Foundation funding of the Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation
  • Tape: 14 Story: 4 - Franklin A. Thomas recalls how he met J. Irwin Miller and Henry Schacht
  • Tape: 14 Story: 5 - Franklin A. Thomas talks about Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation's architectural investments
  • Tape: 14 Story: 6 - Franklin A. Thomas reflects upon the success of the Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation
  • Tape: 14 Story: 7 - Franklin A. Thomas talks about his family
  • Tape: 14 Story: 8 - Franklin A. Thomas remembers the development of Continental Cablevision, Inc.
  • Tape: 14 Story: 9 - Franklin A. Thomas talks about his relationship with the Whitney family
  • Tape: 15 Story: 1 - Franklin A. Thomas talks about John Hay Whitney's philanthropy
  • Tape: 15 Story: 2 - Franklin A. Thomas remembers meeting Kate Roosevelt Whitney
  • Tape: 15 Story: 3 - Franklin A. Thomas remembers interviewing for the presidency of the Ford Foundation
  • Tape: 15 Story: 4 - Franklin A. Thomas describes the Ford Foundation's financial problems
  • Tape: 15 Story: 5 - Franklin A. Thomas talks about his relationship with President James Earl "Jimmy" Carter, Jr.
  • Tape: 15 Story: 6 - Franklin A. Thomas remembers McGeorge Bundy
  • Tape: 15 Story: 7 - Franklin A. Thomas describes the leadership of the Ford Foundation, pt. 1
  • Tape: 15 Story: 8 - Franklin A. Thomas describes the leadership of the Ford Foundations, pt. 2
  • Tape: 16 Story: 1 - Franklin A. Thomas describes his assessment of the Ford Foundation's operations
  • Tape: 16 Story: 2 - Franklin A. Thomas talks about his changes to the Ford Foundation
  • Tape: 16 Story: 3 - Franklin A. Thomas remembers his interview with The New York Times
  • Tape: 16 Story: 4 - Franklin A. Thomas talks about the Ford Foundation's philanthropic work
  • Tape: 16 Story: 5 - Franklin A. Thomas recalls his assessment of the Ford Foundation's funding efforts
  • Tape: 16 Story: 6 - Franklin A. Thomas talks about his development of the Ford Foundation
  • Tape: 16 Story: 7 - Franklin A. Thomas talks about his relationship with Vernon E. Jordan, Jr.
  • Tape: 16 Story: 8 - Franklin A. Thomas reflects upon the experiences that led him to the Ford Foundation
  • Tape: 16 Story: 9 - Franklin A. Thomas remembers Mary Griggs Jordan
  • Tape: 17 Story: 1 - Franklin A. Thomas describes the 'Time Running Out' report, pt. 1
  • Tape: 17 Story: 2 - Franklin A. Thomas describes the 'Time Running Out' report, pt. 2
  • Tape: 17 Story: 3 - Franklin A. Thomas remembers meeting Nelson Mandela
  • Tape: 17 Story: 4 - Franklin A. Thomas recalls Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Klerk's visit to the United States, pt. 1
  • Tape: 17 Story: 5 - Franklin A. Thomas recalls Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Klerk's visit to the United States, pt. 2
  • Tape: 17 Story: 6 - Franklin A. Thomas recalls meeting with F. W. de Klerk upon Nelson Mandela's release
  • Tape: 17 Story: 7 - Franklin A. Thomas remembers Nelson Mandela's release from prison
  • Tape: 17 Story: 8 - Franklin A. Thomas describes his involvement with South Africa's government, pt. 1
  • Tape: 17 Story: 9 - Franklin A. Thomas describes his involvement with South Africa's government, pt. 2
  • Tape: 17 Story: 10 - Franklin A. Thomas describes his mentorship of South African lawyers
  • Tape: 17 Story: 11 - Franklin A. Thomas talks about his relationship with Nelson Mandela
  • Tape: 17 Story: 12 - Franklin A. Thomas talks about the Constitutional Court of South Africa
  • Tape: 17 Story: 13 - Franklin A. Thomas remembers Albie Sachs and Arthur Chaskalson
  • Tape: 17 Story: 14 - Franklin A. Thomas talks about Nelson Mandela's wives
  • Tape: 17 Story: 15 - Franklin A. Thomas remembers his advice to Nelson Mandela
  • Tape: 17 Story: 16 - Franklin A. Thomas talks about the life of Nelson Mandela
  • Tape: 17 Story: 17 - Franklin A. Thomas talks about the African National Congress
  • Tape: 17 Story: 18 - Franklin A. Thomas reflects upon the international reputation of the United States
  • Tape: 17 Story: 19 - Franklin A. Thomas recalls his chairmanship of the September 11th Fund
  • Tape: 17 Story: 20 - Franklin A. Thomas talks about his marriage to Kate Roosevelt Whitney
  • Tape: 17 Story: 21 - Franklin A. Thomas describes his wife, Kate Roosevelt Whitney
  • Tape: 17 Story: 22 - Franklin A. Thomas reflects upon his legacy
  • Tape: 17 Story: 23 - Franklin A. Thomas describes his concerns for the African American community
  • Tape: 17 Story: 24 - Franklin A. Thomas describes how he would like to be remembered