Today is the birthday of Lowell Thomas, a writer, broadcaster, traveler, and publicist who became famous helping to boost the legendary T.E. Lawrence–“Lawrence of Arabia”– into the limelight. Thomas was born in the town of Woodington in Darke County, Ohio, the same county that sharpshooting legend Annie Oakley hailed from. When Thomas was eight the family moved to Victor, Colorado. Interesting enough, his Sunday school teacher there was a woman named Texas Guinan, who would later become famous for her speakeasy in New York City.
He later went to Vaparaiso College (later University) in Indiana and then the University of Denver, acquiring a number of degrees from both institutions. He seemed poised on an academic career. He taught oratory for a while, but then persuaded railroad companies to let him travel free of charge in exchange for articles supporting the joys and advantages of rail travel. Thomas was later part of a team sent to photograph events of the First World War after the United States entered the conflict. Thomas and his cameraman made their way to Palestine, where T. E. Lawrence was fomenting an Arab rebellion against the Turks, an enemy of Britain and other Allied powers. Thomas was fascinated by the enigmatic British officer and took both motion picture footage and still photos and Lawrence and his campaign. Later Thomas would create a lecture series that included his motion pictures of Lawrence that proved to be highly popular. Thomas traveled around the globe with his show and amassed his first fortune.
Thomas had just begun. He began writing books–he wrote 52 in all–and later became a narrator for 20th Century Fox’s Movietone newsreels. He branched into radio, hosting a nightly news and commentary show, and he also did some early television broadcasting in the 1930s. He became know for his travelogues and broadcasting from around the world in all kinds of locations–according to the New York Times obituary, he was the first to broadcast from an airplane, a helicopter and a ship. Lowell Thomas also became involved in the stunning three-dimensional film process called Cinerama.
Later he became known for a PBS series called Lowell Thomas Remembers, dealing with the great events of the twentieth century from the end of World War I through the Cold War era.
Thomas died at age 89 in Pawling, New York on August 29, 1981.