By the spring of 1950, Evelyn and Eugene Thomas were busy cultivating their growing rose garden with Maria and Eugene Jr, when James Wesley entered the symphony of life on May 24th, forever changing their family melody. Musically inclined from the very beginning, James Wesley added an upbeat laughter to the family trio.
Early in life, James Wesley found beauty in the church and was baptized at 45th Street Baptist Church at the young age of eight years old. Growing in the spirit and submerging himself in everything musical at the church, James was always in tune with the choir and his family which grew from a trio to a full Thomas Band with the addition of his brothers Charles and Michael plus another sister, Theresa. Making a joyful noise everywhere he went; James found his first true love in the band room of Shields Elementary School and nightly serenaded his family with his musical rendition of “Oh Danny Boy.” With his trumpet in hand, James marched right out of the shadows of his siblings and became a maestro musician. With a lively personality and musical popularity at highest crescendo, James matriculated through Shields Elementary School and Carver High School resounding more friends and composing more jokes and laughter along the way. Noted as Carver’s soloist, James proudly played “Taps” for the opening of the football games; first chair in the concert band and was always ready for half-time show during football games. Marching to his own beat, James Wesley ventured to Dallas, TX after earning a Band scholarship at Bishop College where he fondly played with the college band as well as a jazz band. There he met and married Marcia Chambers and from this union, he composed what he considered his greatest masterpiece…his children, Kia, James Wesley Jr. and April.
Marching from Dallas to making his home in Augusta, GA; James made melodious memories with everyone he touched from working as a band director at Lucy C. Laney High School and Continental Can to being a faithful member of Bethel AME Church where he worked tirelessly with the choir and music ministry. Never refraining from his first love, James Thomas was a trumpeter for the King of Soul, James Brown expressing his love of music in Brown’s infamous band throughout the states of Georgia and the Carolinas and was even featured in James Brown’s video “Living in America.”
After retiring from Continental Can in Augusta; James moved from Augusta, back home to Birmingham and joined the Lily Baptist Church of Tarrant where he was a harmonious fit among the very renowned music ministry. Later returning home to 45th Street Baptist he was ordained as a Deacon in March of 2006. Back in Birmingham with the family Band, James shined center stage as the sibling who brought the laughter, the fun and the sounds of silliness. Coming full circle, he started a second symphony meeting and marrying Lisa Woolley, who helped him find a new song of love and happiness. Together, they both made a riveting presence with the Deacons and Deacons’ Wives of 45th Street Baptist. Totally living his life like it’s golden; James shared his golden orchestra with anyone who would listen…because talking and making friends was truly his gift. His life has been an awesome concert of laughter, fellowship, fun and family that everyone enjoyed. Gladly we have been blessed to be on the front row of his recital and it has been an awesome performance for 68 years. Although we would like our beloved James to do yet another encore, on February 22nd he took his final bow. Well done, JT…take a bow…we hear you playing in heaven now.
Although his cherished parents Eugene Sr. and Evelyn, along with his brother Eugene Jr. preceded him in death; he leaves an adoring wife, Lisa and his musical children to keep the band playing on: Kia, James Wesley Jr., and April; three grandchildren, Tyler, Madison and Ryann; along with his siblings Maria, Charles, Theresa, and Michael; exceptionally devoted nieces and nephews and a host of relatives and friends that already miss the ‘Beautiful Ballad of James.’