A biography by his son!
William Thomas, the man known as "Buckwheat," one of the most beloved characters in the history of the Our Gang and Little Rascals films, rose from obscurity to become an American icon. Billy's heritage grew to be more than the ninety-three comedies in which he appeared as Buckwheat. He was a husband, father, and soldier. Several generations have come to know Buckwheat as if he was a real person, but few knew Billy, the man behind the myth.
In "Otay!" The Billy "Buckwheat" Thomas Story, William Thomas, Jr., Billy's son, joins with acclaimed author David W. Menefee to brush back the sands of time and unearth the facts beneath the fable. For the first time, the true story is told how producer Hal Roach, Sr. plucked three-year-old Billy from hundreds of children and raised him on a pedestal before an adoring public. For a decade, Billy was the most prominent Black American in motion pictures, but World War Two brought an end to the famous comedy series and a halt to his film career. Billy went on to live a private, nearly normal life, married, fathered an adorable child, and then answered the call to arms and enlisted in the US Army during the Korean War. Years later, imposters attempted to steal his limelight, but Billy forgave the offense with his characteristic, childlike good humor.
In an era when most Black American actors were struggling to gain a foothold in Hollywood, Billy achieved a lasting legacy. Enjoy the timeless tale of a baby superstar, who once shown brightly on movie screens during Hollywood's "Golden Years" and still fascinates audiences today.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
David W. Menefee was born in Fort Worth, Texas, USA, one of a long line of Menefees. His oldest known relative is William L. Menefee, born ca. 1796 in Knox County, Tennessee. In 1830, he and his wife Agnes (Sutherland) and their seven children moved to Jackson County, Texas. The settlement grew steadily, and for a time was known as Jarett Menefee's Supply Station. The settlement was eventually named “Bucksnort,” and according to local legend, the name was coined by an inebriated patron of the saloon. The Menefee family has been commemorated with a Texas Historical Marker #3332.
David’s writing career began in 1979 as a writer and marketing representative for the Dallas Times Herald during an era characterized by fierce competition with a rival, the Dallas Morning News. In 1991, the Dallas Morning News bought out their competitor, closed its doors, and within weeks, razed the building to the ground. Associates from the Dallas Morning News invited David to join their operation. They combined their circulation with subscribers obtained in their acquisition of the Dallas Times Herald. David took on leadership responsibilities with their locally produced version of Parade Magazine, for which he contributed many articles.
Like many of his contemporaries, David broke away from the newspaper industry in 2003 when failing economics forced many publications to downsize or close altogether. He struck out on his own as a freelance writer, immediately finding success as the accredited author of:
Sarah Bernhardt: In the Theater, Film and Sound Recordings (McFarland 2003)
The First Female Stars: Women of the Silent Era (Greenwood/Praeger 2004)
The First Male Stars: Men of the Silent Era (BearManor Media 2008)
Richard Barthelmess: A Life in Pictures (BearManor Media 2009)
George O’Brien: A Man’s Man in Hollywood (BearManor Media January 2010)
“Otay!” The Billy “Buckwheat” Thomas Story (BearManor Media March 2010)
Wally: The True Wallace Reid Story (BearManor Media December 2010)
The Remarkable Mr. Messing (Menefee Publishing, Inc. 2011)
Brothers of the Storm (Menefee Publishing, Inc. 2011)
The Rise and Fall of Lou-Tellegen (Menefee Publishing, Inc. 2011)
MARGOT CRANSTON The Secret of the St. Lawrence Lighthouse (Menefee Publishing, Inc. 2011)
MARGOT CRANSTON The Mystery at Loon Lake (Menefee Publishing, Inc. 2011)
MARGOT CRANSTON The Quest for the Jade Dragons (Menefee Publishing, Inc. 2011)
In collaboration with Richard J. Maturi, he recently wrote the new screenplay for Triple Crown.
As ghost writer, David has written:
Slaves to Medicine by accredited author Dr. George Beauchamp (Brown Books 2006)
Lilian Hall-Davis: The English Rose, by accredited author Richard Davis (unpublished)
A Craving for Travel by accredited author Jim Strong (Brown Books 2009)
Texting Harry by accredited author Connie Podesta (Brown Books 2010)
As editor, David has supervised the creation of:
Sonnets by Robert Brown (Brown Books 2006)
Downtown Dallas, Romantic Past, Modern Renaissance by Mark Rice (Brown Books 2006)
James Best Autobiography (BearManor Media 2009)
Burlesque: A Living History (BearManor Media 2009)
When Game Shows Ruled Daytime TV by Norm Blumenthal (BearManor Media 2010)
Six Cult Films From The Sixties by Ib Melchior (BearManor Media 2010)
Now and Then, The Movies Get It Right by Neal Stannard (BearManor Media 2010)
Endless Summer: My Life With The Beach Boys by Jack Lloyd. (BearManor Media 2010)
Will the Real Me Please Stand Up by Christopher Knopf (BearManor Media 2010)
Tales from the Script by Gene Perrett (BearManor Media 2009)
Best in Hollywood: The Good. The Bad. The Beautiful by James Best (BearManor Media 2009)
Burlesque: A Living History by Jane Briggeman (BearManor Media 2009)
Johnny Olson: A Voice in Time by Randy West (BearManor Media 2009)
Radio Remembered: The Ultimate Guide to the Oral History of the Golden Age of Radio by Dave Siegel
(BearManor Media 2010)
Confessions of a Scream Queen by Matt Beckoff (BearManor Media 2010)
From Cyrano to Magoo: My Years with José Ferrer and Jim Backus by Jack Lloyd (BearManor Media
Little Girl in Big Pictures by Marilyn Knowlden (BearManor Media 2011)
David is currently working as a full-time book editor, and as the author of several new fiction and nonfiction works.
David lives in Dallas, Texas, USA.
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