"The man who can speak acceptably is usually given credit
for an ability out of all proportion to what he really possesses."
- Lowell Thomas
"Good Evening Everybody", was the standard opening for Lowell Thomas’ evening news broadcasts.
Lowell Thomas of course deserves credit for his many accomplishments. Many of them could be dismissed as simply being in the right place at the right time, but that will not account for a lifetime of being America's most trusted voice on the radio.
Thomas did have a gift for self promotion. Soon after leaving school he convince the railroads to give him free passage in exchange for articles he would write extolling the adventures of rail travel. When he made it to Alaska, he hit upon the idea of combining his travels with the emerging media of film making, to create the first travelogues.
Soon after America's entry into the First World War, he was among a party commissioned by President Wilson to make a record of the war. Although the mission was supposed to be academic, it was purely propaganda to bolster America's support for the unpopular war. Thomas was determined to not only report on the war, but to film it as well.
He and his camera man began on the Western Front, but found the imagery of trench warfare far too depressing for their needs. Hoping to find more inspirational material, Thomas began covering General Allenby's campaign against the Ottoman Empire in the Middle East. While there he met a dashing British Army Captain, T.E. Lawrence. Soon achieving fame as "Lawrence of Arabia" the pair rose in fame together and because of each other. Lawrence won fame and influence thanks to Thomas' promotional talents, and his coverage of Lawrence was Thomas' key to fame as well. Although Lawrence would later eschew the trappings of fame, Thomas would continue to defend Lawrence even though relations between the two had cooled.
In 1930 Thomas began a nightly news and commentary program on CBS, moving to NBC two years later, and eventually returning to CBS as part of the Paley Talent raids. Interestingly, Thomas was never an employee of either network. In the early years he was in the employ of the program's sponsor, Sunoco, and because his return to CBS was based on a favorable capital gains tax situation, he formed a production company that sold his programs to the network. Although he dabble briefly in very early television news, radio was his medium of choice, and he had a four decade long career.
Thomas became one of America's foremost globetrotters, and often took his news show on the road. Once on the Spanish Steps in Rome, a fellow American greeted him "Lowell Thomas, don't you ever go home?" The nature of live radio makes on air gaffes inevitable, and some of Thomas' were legendary, including the one featured in our collection when he is brought to laughter by his report on the people who make chocolate "both with and without nuts."
Throughout his life, both on and off the air, Thomas sought adventure, and had a marvelous ability to share it with his many listeners.
Lowell Thomas is honored with two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, one at 6433 Hollywood Blvd for Motion Pictures, and at 1752 Vine St for his work in radio.
Thomas closed his nightly broadcasts: "So long, until tomorrow."