Legendary Associated Press reporter Bob Thomas, who died at the age of 92, wasn’t merely known for covering a record 66 Oscar ceremonies. He also was a founder of the union that represents AP workers.
Thomas was among the seven founders of the Guild when it was organized at AP, said Lyle Price, a former president of the Wire Service Guild, the previous name of the News Media Guild. The seven signed a statement urging co-staffers to support the vote for the union and said they did so as career AP people who saw it in the staff’s best interests.
“Besides being an AP treasure, Bob Thomas was a treasure for the Wire Service Guild,” said Adolphe Bernotas, a Guild leader who continues to serve the union as a CWA Retired Members’ Council vice president.
Price said he came across the document with Thomas’ name when he was reading through old WSG minutes before becoming a representative on the union’s Representative Assembly.
Thomas died Friday at his home in Encino, Calif., of age-related illnesses, his daughter said.
“Thomas always did his AP columns a few days in advance,” Price recalled. “After the eight-day AP strike (in 1969), which Thomas honored, the AP upped his advance time to eight days, he once told me. He was a very good writer and a very decent human being.”
Thomas is listed twice in Guinness World Records, for most consecutive Academy Awards shows covered by an entertainment reporter and for longest career as an entertainment reporter (1944-2010). In addition to his interviews with famous Hollywood stars, Thomas filed AP’s bulletin that Robert F. Kennedy had been shot.
The WSG began bargaining as a national local in 1958, although the union dates its beginnings to the 1940s. Before 1958, UP and INS (which merged into United Press International in 1958), and AP contracts were negotiated for individual bureaus by the nearest American Newspaper Guild locals.