By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Thomas moved to dismiss the suit on July 12, 1995, when he fell ill with his re-occurring depression, but he still is convinced that a great scandal has gone unpunished.
"I thought the evidence was so obvious," he says, shaking his head at the outcome. "Never did get to build that print shop for those kids."
Three months after Thomas abandoned his pursuit of the print-shop scandal, he was back in the mood for rabble-rousing. His primary target this time was the Dallas Black Chamber of Commerce and its chairman, Sam Brown.
"The first time [Thomas] came to [the] chamber I recall he was selling candy. He said he was raising funds to help [his ghetto] kids. Many of us contributed the first time, then he started coming back," Brown says. "At one point, he approached me about what he calls some kind of dance, which I never did understand. In the process of this, I rubbed him wrong somehow."
From the fall of 1994 and into 1995, Brown says, Thomas attended chamber meetings to present his views about the black community. Although Thomas' perspective was upsetting, Brown says he and other members tried to be patient.
"I was really at a loss of what was going on. I felt sorry for him. It didn't seem like he had much financial resources," says Brown, who notes that Thomas became more intense as the months slipped by. "He got very hostile, hollering and screaming at us. I mean real hostile. It was very, very upsetting; very hard to stay calm."
Just before the end of the business day on October 25, 1995, Thomas sent the chamber staff a fax it couldn't ignore. It was a Wednesday afternoon and Thomas was suggesting there would be no tomorrow.
"I always thought that the Black Chamber of Commerce was the most logical organization to revolutionize the ghetto. They have been a big fat disappointment to me. Their board of directors stink. You want [sic] have any trouble replacing them. Things that are rotten have a habit of falling apart after a while," Thomas penned. "What I shall do now is drop a small atom bomb on their headquarters, which will level both them and the ghetto."
Brown says that in the following days he asked Thomas to abort his fax campaign and stay away from the chamber's headquarters on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
"That didn't stop him. He came to one of our meetings right after that. He brought a bull horn," Brown says, adding that Thomas had to be escorted out of the November 14 board meeting.
For the most part, Thomas agrees with Brown's version of events, including the part about the bull horn.
"They have a shouting match," he says, referring to himself and Brown. "Sam says, 'Phil, we don't need any whites coming down here and telling us how to raise money for our kids.' At which time I said, 'Sam, you're a damn racist bigot.'"
Thomas was promptly escorted to the front of the building, where he used his bull horn to inform passers-by that Brown was a damn racist bigot. Thomas kept contacting the chamber for four more weeks, until December 21, 1995, when Brown filed a complaint with Dallas police.
A warrant for Thomas' arrest was issued on December 29 and Thomas was subsequently arrested and charged with making terroristic threats. In March, Thomas agreed to perform 80 hours of community service and stop contacting the chamber in lieu of prosecution. His probation from the prior assault was extended for six months.
Brown wonders what Thomas' true intentions are, but like most other people who have encountered Thomas, he says he just winds up shrugging his shoulders and hoping Thomas will leave him alone.
It seems that the only person who voluntarily keeps in contact with Thomas is W.G. Garland, a full-time instructor and counselor at Brookhaven Community College. A couple of years ago, Garland says he agreed to serve on the board of directors of the Great American Dream Machine.
"It was more of a gesture on my part at the time," says Garland, who noticed that Thomas appeared to be alone, one of the earth's "walking wounded." Garland says he has never participated in any business relating to the Dream Machine and isn't involved with Thomas' activities. But he visits with Thomas as a friend every few weeks, mostly because Thomas' heart is in the right place, even if his approach is off.
"I have never known him not to have the right motives. He's very unselfish and very dedicated," Garland says. "It's just that sometimes I worry when I don't hear from him for weeks, then when I do hear from him...he's out trying to save the world. He thinks he's the Saint Jude of Dallas."
Marching through his North Dallas home, Thomas laughs and points to a bull horn resting on a stack of cardboard boxes in his living room.
Like the rest of the house, the living room looks like a storage facility for forgotten gadgets. An upside-down "Collin Doolin For Judge" yard sign rests against the cardboard boxes, which are overflowing with wires. A collection of old office chairs and desks are hidden underneath briefcases, which in turn are overflowing with papers. A large "Happy Birthday" poster hangs on the far wall.