Lilian T. Thomas was born 1904 in Calvert, Texas. He was one of Rev. Andrew and Annie Thomas' thirteen children. He was a country preacher, cotton farmer, and architect/carpenter who built churches. He claimed to have received "a PhD on his knees."
When we met Rev. Thomas he was living in a nursing home in Abilene. We walked in and saw him at the front in his wheelchair drawing his pictures. He dressed up everyday, much like his drawings. He drew outlaws Clyde Barrow, Pretty Boy Floyd, and Frederick Douglass.
LT Thomas had the ability to see spirits and devils, and to "cast them out." Throughout the 1940-50's he worked with Anna Buck Hanna, a well known fortune teller in Corsicana, Texas. Rev. Thomas shared with us stories and articles about him conjuring rain in drought areas.
While serving as a pastor at Mt B Zion Baptist Church in Kerens, Texas he began drawing in his spare time to "keep his mind busy". Using pencils, crayons, and pens he drew his characters obsessively, with the earliest drawing being frontal portraits, then later adding profiles, and an occasional man on horseback or airplanes or a rare Bonnie Parker, whom he claimed to have known. He sometimes would cut or tear pieces to “make more figures” than just multiples on a page.
When explaining his artwork Rev Thomas said, "My mind just gives it to me, and the old man upstairs gives it to my mind".
After Rev. Thomas passed in 1995, we were lucky enough to donate a big collection of his drawings to the Collection de L'art Brut in Lausanne, Switzerland, which are on display in a case within the museum.
Rev. Thomas loved the joy others received from his drawings.