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Reverend Dr. Latta Thomas

The Reverend Dr. Latta Roosevelt Thomas, liberation theologian, was born on October 12, 1927, in Union, South Carolina. Thomas graduated from Union's Sims High School in 1947. His desire for education and his work ethic helped him to earn an A.A. from Friendship College in Rock Hill, South Carolina in 1949. Thomas was salutatorian of his class at Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina, in 1951, where he received his
B.A. Because of his high grades, the Pepsi-Cola Company awarded him a graduate scholarship. Moving to Rochester, New York, Thomas earned a B.D. from Colgate Rochester Seminary in 1955. Meanwhile, Thomas became a full-time minister at Monumental Baptist Church in Elmira, New York, where he met his wife, Bessie "Bea" Lowery.

In 1966, Thomas earned a master's of sacred theology degree from Andover Newton Theological Seminary. At the request of a former mentor and friend, he returned to his alma mater, Benedict College. During his thirty-year tenure at Benedict, Thomas served as school chaplain and head of the Religion and Philosophy Department. He also served as pastor of Second Calvary Baptist Church in Columbia for more than twenty years. Thomas earned a doctor of ministry degree from Andover Newton in 1973. As a progressive theologian, Thomas has published numerous articles and two books, Biblical Faith and the Black American and The Biblical God and Human Suffering.

Three important factors influence Thomas' philosophy of life: the Judeo-Christian tradition, the black American experience, and the people who took an interest in his academic and professional development. Thomas retired in 2000. He and his wife live in Columbia, South Carolina, where Thomas spends his time perfecting his Greek and reading for pleasure. He is a member of the Progressive National Baptist Convention, the NAACP, and is past chairman of the South Carolina Academy of Religion.

Accession Number

A2002.219

Sex

Male

Interview Date

12/3/2002

Last Name

Thomas

Marital Status

Married

Organizations
Schools

Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School

First Name

Latta

Birth City, State, Country

Union

HM ID

THO04

Favorite Season

Summer

Sponsor

Knight Foundation

State

South Carolina

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

Whatever Goes Around, Comes Around.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

South Carolina

Birth Date

10/12/1927

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Columbia

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Soul Food

Short Description

Philosophy and religion professor and chaplain Reverend Dr. Latta Thomas (1927 - ) taught at Benedict College for thrity years.

Employment

Monumental Baptist Church

Benedict College

Second Calvary Baptist Church

Main Sponsor
Favorite Color

None

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Latta Thomas's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Latta Thomas lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Latta Thomas describes his maternal family's background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Latta Thomas describes his paternal family's background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Latta Thomas talks about his Great-Great-Grandpa Al's stories of slavery

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Latta Thomas describes his Uncle Jack "Pet" Jones

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Latta Thomas talks about the role of the church in his uncles' lives

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Latta Thomas describes the tradition of Southern voodoo

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Latta Thomas tells the story of Aunt Anna using voodoo on Uncle Pet

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Latta Thomas describes Uncle Jack "Pet" Jones' death, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Latta Thomas describes Uncle Jack "Pet" Jones' death, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Latta Thomas talks about his parents

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Latta Thomas describes his father

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Latta Thomas describes how his parents were underestimated

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Latta Thomas talks about his father's search for work in the north

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Latta Thomas shares how his parents met

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Latta Thomas describes the sights, sounds, and smells of his childhood

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Latta Thomas talks about stealing fruit from plantations

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Latta Thomas describes how his father raided Aunt Essie's party

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Latta Thomas talks about how each individual had to steal their own watermelon

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Latta Thomas describes his school experiences

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Latta Thomas remembers his favorite teachers

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Latta Thomas talks about the Classics

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Latta Thomas describes his relationship with Mr. Sims

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Latta Thomas talks about his scholarship at Friendship Junior College in Rock Hill, South Carolina

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Latta Thomas describes attending Friendship Junior College in Rock Hill, South Carolina

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Latta Thomas talks about his scholarship at Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Latta Thomas describes attending Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, Rochester, New York

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Latta Thomas describes Rochester, New York

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Latta Thomas describes racism in Rochester, New York in the 1950s

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Latta Thomas describes the social gospel tradition at Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, Rochester, New York

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Latta Thomas talks about Joseph H. [J.H.] Jackson and the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Latta Thomas talks about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Latta Thomas talks about his mentor, Dr. James Rodney Branton

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Latta Thomas describes his book "Biblical Faith and the Black American"

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Latta Thomas describes his argument in "Biblical Faith and the Black American"

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Latta Thomas talks about Gayraud Wilmore

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Latta Thomas describes the National Black Churchmen

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Latta Thomas talks about Cain Hope Felder

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Latta Thomas talks about contemporary issues in theological scholarship

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Latta Thomas talks about the issue of slavery in Biblical scholarship

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Latta Thomas talks about embracing liberation theology

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Latta Thomas recalls the poem "Abou Ben Adhem"

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Latta Thomas shares his views on humanism

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Latta Thomas describes his hopes and concerns for the black community

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Latta Thomas talks about dependency and human nature

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Latta Thomas describes Friedrich Schleiermacher's theological liberalism

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Latta Thomas talks about his belief in God

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Latta Thomas talks about his book "Biblical God of Human Suffering"

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Latta Thomas describes black theology

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Latta Thomas talks about critiquing Reverend Albert Cleage's scholarship

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Latta Thomas remembers football stars Jim Brown and Ernie Davis

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Latta Thomas talks about Ernie Davis' death

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Latta Thomas talks about African religions

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Latta Thomas describes his career

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Latta Thomas reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Latta Thomas talks about being the first in his family to graduate from college

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Latta Thomas describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Latta Thomas talks about education and the black church

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Latta Thomas narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$7

DAStory

1$2

DATitle
Latta Thomas talks about his scholarship at Friendship Junior College in Rock Hill, South Carolina
Latta Thomas describes black theology
Transcript
When you were on the verge of graduating from high school, did you have an idea that you were gonna go to college?$$No, I had given up, really. Interesting you should mention that. I, I used to tell people that the cotton patch at night is a good place in which to pray so nobody will see you. That was the big ambition of mine, to go right on through, inspired by some of my great teachers, and of course the Simses. But I, I had absolutely no money. Now when, when I say no money, I mean that. I didn't--the day after I graduated from high school, I had convinced myself that maybe I had begged God enough, you know, he was gonna get tired of me, and I spent the greater part of the morning just walking back--just taking a last look around where I had spent roughly four years. And I happened to walk up into the yard of a minister by the name of Reverend M.A. Zimmerman. His, his son, parenthetically, just retired from the Army as a general, General Zimmerman. He was chief chaplain of the United States. I walked up in his yard, and of course we knew each other; I attended his church occasionally. I was a very close friend to one of his members. And we entered into chitchat, and then he asked me, "Boy, do you wanna go to school?" And the question was so painful, until I wasn't very polite to him. I said, "Now you know I don't have any money to go to school." And he looked at me and said, "That's not what I asked you, is it?" I said, "Well, yes, I want to go to school. Now what?" And I was--later I was happy that he didn't get angry at the way I was speaking to him because then in sort of subdued fashion he said, "Well, I know the president of a school who just may agree to giving you a work scholarship to college," and that he had reference to that junior college, which was then in Rock Hill, South Carolina. And he said, "Would you--are you willing to work?" I said, "I've done it all my life." He said, "Now, it may mean, if he says yes, it may mean that you have to, have to leave right now and go there and work for the rest of the summer, and be there when the classes open up in the fall." I said, "That'd be all right with me." I didn't know that Zimmerman was that serious. In about ten days, I received this communication from Dr. [James H.] Goudlock, the president of the school, offering me a work scholarship and asking me to come immediately. And I packed my wooden trunk, I don't see any wooden trunks anymore, a wooden trunk, and one of the, the straps on it was broken. And so I took a rope and tied it around and of course put it--they put it under--you know, the Greyhound put it in the compartment there. And I went immediately to Rock Hill and I worked, plowed mule.$I remember when I went down [Reverend] Zan Holmes ca--had me come down to Southern Methodist [University]. You know, there little seminary down there is called Perkins [School of Theology]. When I finished--and 'course back in those days, I usually rolled up my sleeves anyway--that was about two years after the biblical--"Biblical Faith and the Black American" came out. And 'course, you know, being young and sassy, so when you go down with your sleeves rolled up, and I expected people like Perkins faculty to jump all over me, and I'm, I'm ready to enjoy it. And when I finished my lecture, in which I brought out the major part of that, I saw a hand go up. I said yes? It was a black fellow. He said he whom he loveth, he chasteneth Well, now that's what we had been given all our lives. Don't raise any question about it, because God is laying it on you because he loves you.$$Yeah.$$Now, you know, with friends like that, who needs enemies, you know. But, [clearing throat], but I didn't get caught like Jesse [Jackson]. I pointed out to him that every serious Christian maintains that God loves all folk. Now the question that still hasn't been settled is, why do I get chastened more than the other group? And see, and really, that's the linchpin of liberation theology in America. See, you have to watch theologians about using symbolic language. You see, a lot of, lot of folk just shake in their boots--'course some of 'em do more than shake in their boots--when you mention the term black theology. God is colorblind, and you kind of--when did you paint him, you know, this kind of thing. But that's not what Jim [James Cone] is saying. We used to laugh about it a lot whenever we'd run into each other. That's not what he is saying. When he says God is black, Christ is black, what that symbolic language is saying is that inasmuch as the biblical God identifies with the person who is suffering the most, then in America he's black, any way you slice it. Now in South America, they got it right. They call their theology, their liberation theology, down there political theology. They got the, the--they're having to worry about those fellows who knock on your door at midnight, and take a member of your family and you never see him again. But in America, the person who is the man beaten by thieves is a black person, see, hence, black theology, black Christ.$$