Danny Thomas Goes to Lebanon, 1962

Today’s post was written by David Langbart, Reference Archivist at the National Archives in College Park.

Danny Thomas was a major mid-20th Century entertainment star of radio, screen, and television.  He is most known for his television show that ran for 13 years (1953-65) under the names Make Room for Daddy and The Danny Thomas Show.  After that, he starred in a number of short-running television shows.  In addition to being a performer, he also successfully produced a number of other TV shows, including The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Andy Griffith Show, and The Mod Squad.  To some, Danny Thomas is best known as the father of Marlo Thomas, star of the TV series That Girl.

 Thomas’s most lasting contribution, however, is the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.  Before he found success as an entertainer, Thomas vowed that if he became successful that he would open a shrine to St. Jude Thaddeus, the patron saint of lost causes.  After becoming a star, with the help of Dr. Lemuel Diggs and close friend Anthony Abraham, he established St. Jude’s in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1962.

Thomas’s parents were immigrants from Lebanon.  He was born in Deerfield, Michigan, and grew up in Toledo, Ohio.  In 1962, at the invitation of the Lebanese government, Thomas and his wife Rosemarie visited that country.  They received an enthusiastic, bordering on riotous, welcome.  The U.S. embassy in Beirut sent the following report on the visit.

[During his brief visit to Lebanon from April 26 through May 3, television star Danny Thomas by his warmth, cheerfulness and patience throughout an exhausting round of activities won the hearts of the Lebanese, who in turn captured his…

…The Embassy believes it would be appropriate for the Secretary to send a letter to Mr. Thomas commending him for his outstanding contribution to our foreign relations…]

The records contain no evidence that Secretary of State Dean Rusk sent the recommended letter to Mr. Thomas.

In February 2012, the U.S. Postal Service honored Danny Thomas with a first-class stamp.  St. Jude’s Hospital is in the background.


Source: U.S. Embassy Beirut to Department of State, Despatch 592, May 8, 1962, file 032 Thomas, Danny and Rosemarie/5-862, 1960-63 Central Decimal Files (NAID 302021), RG 59: General Records of the Department of State, National

2 thoughts on “Danny Thomas Goes to Lebanon, 1962

  1. Another fascinating post, David. Really interesting memo from the embassy staffer. But 9 “fist fights” at the airport? And is it possible that 12,000 people greeted him in Becharre? I wonder what was the 1962 equivalent of Meetup?

  2. As children, our family TV viewing hours included Make Room for Daddy and The Danny Thomas Show. He was a household name, for sure. Loved the movie he starred in, playing the great song writer Gus Kahn, opposite Doris Day. “I’ll See You In My Dreams.” (one of my favorite songs) He became my first example of what humanitarianism is. His name became, and still is for many, synonymous with St. Jude’s.

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