The Meade Legacy Society in conjunction with the African American Jazz Caucus confers the 5th Annual Donald Meade Legacy Jazz Griot Award to Larry Reni Thomas for his numerous and invaluable contributions to jazz over the past thirty years - as a radio announcer, producer; writer/author; and staunch supporter and advocate of jazz music, jazz studies and jazz artists. In every sense of the word, Thomas is a griot whose past and current service sustains, elevates, preserves, and advances jazz, now and for generations to come. In North Carolina and throughout the Southeast, in particular, Thomas has distinguished himself as a unique, passionate voice for jazz and African American culture.
Thomas is a veteran writer/radio announcer and cultural activist based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Through his role with several radio stations over the past thirty years, he has helped expand jazz audiences and listenership. He worked at WHQR-FM, Wilmington, North Carolina (1984-1994); station manager of WWIL-AM (1990); evening jazz announcer, interim station manager, program director and producer for WNCU-FM, Durham, North Carolina (1995 to 2003) and jazz announcer at WXYC-FM, WXDU-FM and WCOM-FM. As an announcer, Larry provides important historical context for the music, and he engages audiences in ways that cultivates a deep appreciation for the significant role jazz plays in American and world culture.
Thomas has presented his historical lecture, “The Carolina Jazz Connection” at universities, colleges, schools, and public venues since 2008. His efforts to preserve and promote jazz include service on the board of directors of the North Carolina Jazz Network and the Triangle Jazz Society and, he was an active member of IAJE. In 1982, while a jazz announcer at WDBS-FM in Durham, North Carolina, he wrote the liner notes for an album entitled “The Story Teller” by vocalist Bus Brown (Relate Records). Later that year, Thomas published The True Story Behind the Wilmington Ten (a revised edition was published by U.B. & U.S. Books, Hampton, Virginia, in the fall of 1993). His second book, Rabbit! Rabbit! Rabbit!: A Tale of the Wilmington Incident of February 1971 was published February 2006. He is currently writing an historical study of The Barn: Wilmington, North Carolina’s Jazz Mecca (1941—1945). He is also the author of "The Lady Who Shot Lee Morgan, a book and critically-acclaimed article posted on his blog.
Additionally, he has taught History at Shaw University Cape (1989-94) in Wilmington and Durham, North Carolina, and at Omuteko Gwamaziima, an African-centered charter school in Durham. He is the founder and project director of Larry Thomas & Associates, Inc., a volunteer, non-profit, tax-exempt, cultural arts organization, dedicated to the jazz and Caribbean cultures. The primary purpose is to elevate the cultural awareness of the community by propagating, promoting and presenting these two vital, vibrant art forms to the public.
Thomas earned a M.A. in history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and has done further study at UNC’s graduate school of Journalism. He was born in 1950 and reared in Wilmington, North Carolina. He began his professional career in journalism in 1978, while he was a history graduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He assisted Wayne King with a New York Times Magazine article entitled “The Case Against the Wilmington Ten.” He has since, written articles, reviews and previews published in Downbeat, Jazz Line, The Spectator Magazine, The Urban & The Wilmington Star News, The Wilmington Journal, Encore Magazine and Reggae Report.
Larry Reni Thomas is presented the 2016 Donald Meade Legacy Jazz Griot Award