Thomas celebrates a century

Published 11:43 pm Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Annie B. Thomas has lived through two world wars and countless changes in history and culture.

The Brewton native was born on Aug. 28, 1911, and in the 100 years since her birth, she has put her faith in God and believed in the idea of hard work. She has led what she calls a “blessed life.”

“I believe my faith in God and working hard all my life is the secret to my long life,” she said. “I’ve had some hard times, but so has everybody else.”

Thomas was born to Jane Longmire and Warren Lewis but at the age of 3, she was adopted into the family of Rebecca Lewis and Silvania “Sil” Lewis. She began her path of faith at the old Baptist Corner Church south of town near Murder Creek, the forerunner of Saint Siloam Baptist Church. She joined Second St. Siloam Missionary Baptist Church at the age of 7 and was baptized into a church she continues to attend today.

“We went to church,” she said. “We were carried there by our parents and taught to do the right things.”

Thomas began her formal education at the Mamie Potter school on Pea Ridge. This was at a time when she had to walk from her home on Roger Street to school on Pea Ridge. She later continued her education by attending the city school system and then Southern Normal School. She even remembers having several conversations with the founder of the school, James R. Dooley Sr., who founded the school in the same year as her birth.

She also began her working career at an early age. She and her sister went to work as teenagers at the Bank of Brewton, where they swept the floors.

“Mr. Oscar Cauley was there at the time.” she said. “Then I worked for Mrs. Cola Parker. She opened the first bank account I ever had. I worked for Mr. John R. Downing and Mr. Ed Leigh McMillan. My daddy was Mr. McMillan’s chauffeur. I also worked for Dr. Holley at the hospital and at D.W. McMillan Hospital.”

Thomas had learned to cook and she honed her skills by cooking for different families in town. But she didn’t stop there — she also worked picking berries in the Lovelace strawberry field.

“I picked strawberries, blueberries and blackberries,” Thomas said. “I did a little of it all. I thought I would die of hard work, but I didn’t. It was a privilege to be able to go to field and work. I worked then and I am still working. I can eat most anything I want and I have good health. “

Thomas met George Watson Thomas Sr. while attending Second Saint Siloam Missionary Baptist Church and they were married on Nov. 3, 1938. They had four children, Peggy, George Jr., Rebecca and Bernard.

“None of them were born in a hospital,” she said. “Back then we used a midwife to have our babies.”

Her husband died in August 2008. Three of her other children have died, and her son Bernard is the only one left.

“Three of my children are walking in Jeruselem just like John, and that is what I want for myself,” she said.

Thomas lives on Davison Street in Brewton with her son-in-law, Earl Hicks, and other members of the family.

“It may have been hard growing up, but we had plenty to eat and that was the important thing,” she said. “But I’m quite young yet and I don’t feel as if I missed out on a lot or nothing that I desired. I’m amazed that I am still here. I’ve picked a lot of berries and cooked a lot of meals.”

Her longevity has not gone unnoticed. She has received cards from President Barack Obama, former President Bill Clinton, former President Jimmy Carter, Governor Robert Bentley, Representative Alan Baker and Mayor Ted Jennings. She was also honored at the church with a big birthday celebration given by her fellow church members.

Thomas said she has seen most of the people she knew in her youth pass on, but she has kept her faith and believes that she has had a good life. Her plans are to “walk in Jerusalem, like John.”