|Subject: Actor William Thomas Jr
Dies at 73
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Date Posted: Friday, December 11, 08:42:04am
Rev. Dr. William "Butch" Thomas Jr.
1947 - 2020
William "Butch" Thomas, Jr. was born on November 8, 1947 in Columbus, Ohio, to the union of William Thomas, Sr. and Thelma (Hunt) Thomas. He entered the gates of Heaven peacefully on November 14, 2020. Bill was the eldest child, having two younger sisters: Janice Thomas Parks, who predeceased him, and Dr. Gene Thomas Harris. Bill's early years were spent on the thriving east side of Columbus, where he attended Garfield Elementary School and Champion Junior High. When the family moved to the northeast side, he attended Linden McKinley High School from which he graduated in 1965.
He was a life-long member of the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ. Bill grew up and matured in Christ at Woodland Christian Church, Disciples of Christ. Bill's love of music was obvious early. At the age of 12, his pastor noticed him playing the piano at church. This was long before Bill had formal lessons; he was using the gift God gave him, playing "by ear" which he perfected in addition to his years of formal training. The church gifted him with a piano, which began his long and storied career as a musician, singer, actor, teacher, and pastor. When the church's pianist left during Bill's high school years, he became the choir director, which would now be called the Minister of Music. Having been blessed with a beautiful tenor singing voice, concurrently, he was a participant in the elite music groups in his high school, which required auditions.
In his spare time, to earn extra money as a high school student, he delivered the local newspaper to homes throughout the community where the family lived. After his stint as a "paper boy," he became a page at the local library branch. In each of these endeavors, Bill endeared himself to his classmates, his teachers, his customers, his neighbors, and his friends with his winning personality and his clear work ethic. Today, 50 years after Bill moved away from Columbus, there remain individuals who remember him fondly and lovingly in those two roles.
After graduating from Linden McKinley, Bill enrolled at The Ohio State University, where he majored in and graduated with a degree in sociology in 1970. During his time at The Ohio State University (OSU), he was one of only a few African American men who sang in the Men's Glee Club. As well, he had significant roles in several musical productions including the musical version of Hans Christian Anderson's fairy tale, "The Princess and the Pea." During this time, Bill continued to direct the choirs at church, while also traveling throughout the city and the region with the exclusive singing group, the Michael Frazier Chorale which was founded in 1966.
After graduating from OSU, Bill continued his musical endeavors, and worked with the Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority, teaching low-income individuals how to maintain their homes.
While this work was meaningful to the people involved and the community itself, Bill's desire was to be on the "big stage" in New York. In the fall of 1971, Bill quit his job, gave his car to his baby sister, packed his clothes, and left for New York City. Always close to the church, he joined Stuyvesant Heights Christian Church and soon was called to direct the youth and young adult choir. Eventually, Bill became the minister of music while concurrently working on Broadway.
He moved to Los Angeles in 1984, where he lived until his transition. Bill's stage and screen credits are impressive. While in New York, he appeared in the original production of the popular off-Broadway production, Godspell, as well as Your Arms Too Short to Box with God and he played Jacob in the original Broadway cast of La Cage Aux Folles. He appeared in the Bold and the Beautiful, Mambo Kings, Bruce Almighty, and Christmas with the Kranks. He made many commercials including being the principal in two long running commercials for Coast Soap. He played Cool Charles in the comedy, Frank's Place (which he was nominated for an NAACP Image Award) and he had a lead role in Stephen Bochco's Cop Rock. His most notable role came in the final season of The Cosby Show where he played Vanessa Huxtable's fiancÚ, Dabnis Brickey.
When Bill moved to Los Angeles, he became the organist for 30th Street Christian Church. Subsequently, he joined Church of the Valley (Disciples of Christ), where he served as Minister of Music and Associate Pastor. In 2009, he was called to pastor, and came to deeply love, the congregation of the Little White Chapel in Burbank, where he served until the time of his transition. Bill earned his Master of Divinity and his Doctor of Ministry at the Claremont School of Theology. While pastoring, he taught a class on worship and the arts at Claremont and he taught a class at UCLA on voice for contemporary musical theater. His teaching career also included giving private voice and music lessons to countless individuals to whom he became beloved.
While both his faith and music were central in his life, his family maintained the starring role. Bill is survived by his spouse and the love of his life for 35 years, Rev. Dr. Michael Kosik, his mother and best friend, Elder Thelma Thomas, his sister, Dr. Gene Thomas Harris (Stanley E.), his nephew, Pastor Wade Thomas Harris (Belinda), precocious great nephews and great niece, Nathan, Noah, and Naomi Harris, mother-in-law, Peg Kosik, brother-in-law, Tim Kosik, and a host of cousins and close friends. In addition to his sister, Janice, Bill was predeceased by his father, William Thomas, Sr., nephew, Wesley Parks, Jr., father-in-law, Ken Kosik, maternal grandparents, Elders Sherman and Florine Hunt, paternal grandparents, Jeff and Inez Thomas, and a number of aunts, uncles, and cousins.
A private family memorial will be held in Los Angeles at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills on December 11. A second private family memorial will be held in Columbus on December 16 at WHITE'S FUNERAL AND CREMATION SERVICES, 867 S. James Rd., Columbus, Ohio 43227. Service will be live streamed at 11:00 a.m. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Rev. Dr. William Thomas, Jr. Memorial Fund at the Little White Chapel Christian Church, 1711 N. Avon Street, Burbank, CA 91505, or to the American Cancer Society. Arrangements by WHITE'S FUNERAL AND CREMATION SERVICES, 867 S. JAMES ROAD, COLS, OH 43227, BENJAMIN F. "BENNY" WHITE, JR, FUNERAL DIRECTOR, (614)947-1123, whitesfh867.com
Published in The Columbus Dispatch from Nov. 28 to Dec. 14, 2020.
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