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HomeBUSINESSFranklin A. Thomas, Pathbreaking Ford Foundation President, Dies at 87

Franklin A. Thomas, Pathbreaking Ford Foundation President, Dies at 87


Mr. Thomas pushed engagement with anti-apartheid efforts in South Africa, and Ford was among the many first world nonprofits to open an workplace there. In 1993, he persuaded Nelson Mandela, a private good friend, and F.W. de Klerk, the nation’s final apartheid-era president (who died final month), to satisfy with President Bill Clinton in Philadelphia.

He left the inspiration in 1996 — largely to focus his work on South Africa, but in addition as a result of he had managed to attain the whole lot that he had got down to do when he took over, and extra.

Asked on one event if his mom ever dreamed that he would turn into president of the Ford Foundation, he replied, “She would not have set her sights so low.”

Franklin Augustine Thomas was born in Bedford-Stuyvesant on May 27, 1934. Though he grew up in a tight-knit household of immigrants from Barbados, the neighborhood was struggling, with crime on the rise and good jobs onerous to search out.

His father, James, was an evening watchman and laborer who died when Franklin was 11. His mom, Viola (Atherley) Thomas, labored as a waitress and housekeeper. During World War II, she went to nighttime college so she might qualify as a machinist and make more cash to assist her household.

“I grew up in a family that just assumed that one, you were smart and capable; two, that you were going to work hard; and three, the combination of these meant anything was possible,” Mr. Thomas stated in a 1982 interview with The New York Times.

But he additionally watched his mom battle with a authorized and political system that appeared to have little concern for a working-class immigrant of coloration like her. At one level an actual property agent tried to swindle her out of a down fee on a brownstone; although she finally obtained her a refund, her battle left a long-lasting impression on her son.

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