What was life like over the years in the Thomas family?
The Thomas Family
Erwin K Thomas was born on June 3rd, 1943 in Georgetown, Guyana. As the eldest of eleven, my parents were always encouraging us to pray and attend church. As a teenager I went to Cambridge Academy High School and sang in the choir at St. George’s Anglican Cathedral. The hand of God was in my eventual success of passing the General Certificate of Education (GCE) London that opened doors. My life took a turn away from the church when I entered Guyana’s Teachers College (GTC). Around graduation time I became seriously ill with a pulmonary disease and had to be hospitalized. I was able to leave Georgetown Public Hospital (GPH) well enough to teach at St. Cyril’s Anglican School in Hadfield Street. While there, I felt a call to pursue studies in mass communications in America. I lived in hope that my dreams would be realized.
I visited the American Consulate Library in Georgetown, browsed through catalogues, and applied to the University of Oregon - Eugene. I was accepted in the Speech Department to study radio/tv broadcasting. Locally, I began playing English horse races to raise funds. Luckily, I won $6,000 on three $100 bets. I also received a foreign student scholarship to make my education possible.
My plan to return to my native land was aborted when God blessed me with Mary Barta, an interracial and American wife. So, in 1970, when I graduated from the U of O, we were married. Shortly afterwards, my wife and I relocated to New York state, and I attended Brooklyn College of CUNY to pursue a Master’s degree in TV. By this time, I had received a green card from the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service. During the last year of my internship at BCTV, I worked as a desk assistant at CBS Radio News Network in New York City. This job proved pivotal for me to be hired at Oswego - SUNY.
While living at Oswego, Mary pursued the MLS degree, and as God would have it, after two years we were ready to move to the University of Missouri – Columbia, where I became a doctoral student in the School of Journalism. Mary found employment at the university’s library as a librarian. While studying at Missouri I was hospitalized with depression. My youngest brother Rawle was killed in a plane crash off the coast of Barbados. In 1975, I lost my mother in Guyana after a short illness. Years later, while teaching at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, my sister-in-law Joannie was killed by a drunken driver in Oregon.
Our move to Virginia provided new opportunities for employment in our careers. I was employed as a professor of mass communications at Norfolk State University (NSU), and Mary as a librarian at Tidewater Community College (TCC) – Chesapeake. In 1981, we were blessed with the birth of our son Matthew. Prior to his birth we had become members of the Church of Holy Apostles, an ecumenical congregation of Episcopalians and Roman Catholics. On May 5th, 1997, I became an American citizen. In retirement from NSU writing has been a passion and therapeutic. I have published eleven books on the mass media, interfaith devotionals, an autobiography, and a novel. Mary does volunteer work and contributes to charitable organizations. Our son Matthew is a genetic counselor at the University of Virginia, and is married to Shannon Mabry, a real estate agent. Our family lives in Charlottesville, VA.