1933-1958, 1968
Inclusive dates
1933-1958, 1968
Papers, 1933-1958 and 1968, chiefly relating to the work of William J. Thomas, Jr. (1906-1982), in heading up publicity and advertising for the Barter Theatre of Abingdon, Virginia. The bulk of the papers are promotional materials for the Theatre, including information packets, schedules and cast lists, brochures, press releases and prepared articles, and an appeal, ca. 1948, to the General Assembly for increased appropriations. Several items reflect Thomas's attempts to obtain sponsorship for a planned radio and television program entitled "Barter Theatre on the Air." Other papers include correspondence, clippings, programs, resumes and other biographical materials on Thomas, and two year-in-review letters sent by Theatre founder Robert Porterfield (1905-1971) to his general acquaintance on Groundhog's Day, 1958 and 1968
Member of
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Biographical or historical data
  • William J. Thomas, Jr., was born on 1 April 1906 in Beaufort, South Carolina, the son of William J. and Tennessee Calhoun Thomas. He earned a bachelor's degree from the University of South Carolina in 1927, then entered the Columbia School of Journalism. In 1928, he left Columbia to become a reporter for the New York Herald Tribune. Subsequently, Thomas worked in the publicity department of the National Broadcasting Company (NBC), 1929-1936; as an advertising executive with Young & Rubicam, Inc., 1937-1945, and the William Esty Company, 1949-1959; as a loan officer and assistant vice president of savings and loan businesses in Beaufort and Los Angeles; and again in advertising with Ball/Morgan Associates. He married Catherine "Kitty" Vaughan in 1934, but was widowed the day after the birth of their son, William Calhoun Thomas, in October 1936. On 20 April 1960, he married Anne Roof Kerr in Los Angeles.
  • In the late 1940's while working as a freelance writer and producer, Thomas agreed to help friend Robert Porterfield (1905-1971) with publicity for the Barter Theatre, located in Abingdon, Virginia. Barter was opened by Porterfield in 1933 with the goal of providing work for actors and entertainment for Southwest Virginians struggling through the Depression. Initially, tickets could be purchased for 35 cents or the equivalent in food. Named the State Theatre of Virginia in 1946, Barter is now one of the oldest professional theatres in the country. Its best known alumni include: Gregory Peck, Patricia Neal, Ernest Borgnine, Hume Cronyn, Ned Beatty, Gary Collins and Larry Linville.
  • William J. Thomas, Jr., died in July 1982 in Los Angeles.
Cataloging source
Form designation
  • The Library of Virginia
Cumulative index finding aids
Immediate source of acquisition
Thomas, William C.
Type of unit
cu. ft.

Library Locations

    • Library of VirginiaBorrow it
      800 East Broad Street, Richmond, VA, 23219, US
      37.5415632 -77.4360805
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