In His Own Words

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My husband of fifty-two years never ceases to amaze me. Most recently, after a three-year project — on-again and off-again — he completed writing his memoirs and family history.

Married at the young ages of 17 and 18, I have watched him go through the many phases of life. The challenges sometimes seemed insurmountable, but he always kept pushing forward — failure was not an option.  At each stage, his goal was to move our family forward.  He had a strong commitment to ensuring our children were given opportunities that had not been available to us.   Together, we accomplished this.   There were some bumps in the road.  But, I can honestly say we have been fortunate.  In our fifty-two years together, we have shared more lemonade than lemons.  I ask my five Blog Followers, you  know who you are, to join me in congratulating first time author, James Cameron Thomas, on the January 12, 2013 release of his first book, “Son of a Sharecropper Achieves the American Dream.”

In His Own Words

I am a 70-year-old black male who was born in Mississippi in 1941 to an 18-year-old unwed mother with one child.  My parents were sharecroppers.   I did not know my biological father until I was 15 years old.  I grew up in dire poverty in the pre-Civil Rights south, chopping and picking cotton for ten hours a day, eight months of the year.  I was a high school dropout and had my first child, out-of-wedlock, at the tender age of 17.  One year later I married my beautiful 17-year-old childhood sweetheart and by the age of 26 I was the father of four children.  By age 33, I had obtained Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  I overcame many difficult beginnings to become the succesful person I am today.

This year my wife Yvonne and I celebrated our 52nd anniversary.  Thanks to a lot of hard work and God’s blessings, I now live in a suburb of Wisconsin and have a winter home in Orlando, Florida.  I live in a beautiful house , have a large collection of African-American art, photographs and mementos and I am not without resources and material comforts.   I am surrounded by treasured books by William Faulkner, James Baldwin, Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, W.E.B. DuBois, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., President Barack Obama, and numerous other authors who have written about the African-American experience in America.  I am truly blessed with a rich network of friends going back to elementary school including my best friend, my loving wife Yvonne.  I have four children, eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, all blessed with good health and sound minds, and pursuing careers.

My story and my family’s story is about being black in this country — an honest story about how much progress has been made, but also about how much progress still needs to be achieved.  I faced many hardships and struggles as a poor black boy growing up in 1950’s Mississippi.  But my struggles and hardships didn’t end when I moved to the north and began my professional career in business and government service.  While I was no longer chopping and picking cotton ten hours a day, I was still in many ways treated like a second class citizen.  This book, then, is a cautionary tale for black people about attitudes that have not changed fast enough and the progress that still has to be made.

At the same time, this is not a memoir by an angry black man.  Rather it is a story of hope and perseverance — about how I overcame tremendous odds to achieve success and the American Dream.  Despite the problems I describe, I’ve had many more victories, and I am thankful to my family, friends, colleagues, and country for the opportunities and achievements that have blessed my life.

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4 thoughts on “In His Own Words

  1. Hi Yvonne,
    You have so many reasons to be proud of Jim. Not only did he have the foresight to pick you for his lifetime partner, but he shared, along with you, a vision of a better life for your
    children. I bought 3 copies of his book, one to save for Ava. My sisters and I are constantly grabbing for the other two copies at my Mom’s house while we sit with her.
    I have read half the book and find things to smile about and some things that are very
    hard to read. Jim, congratulations on your courage to share the story of your family. I share the hope that it will encourage others to tell their stories. I am proud to be part of
    your family through Ms. Ava Nicole Thomas:) Cebby

    Like

  2. Hello Mrs Thomas
    I ordered a copy of this book for myself and one for the library since I’m sure that there are people in the Madison community who will want to learn more about your inspiring lives and the history of your earlier life in Mississippi and elsewhere.

    After listening to some of these stories over the years, I can’t wait to read them and to see photos of family members whom I’ve never met.

    Thank you for sharing your history with others, Mr Thomas!

    Like

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