Charles Thomas devoted his life to the study and instruction of literature, with a focus on the work of Robert Browning. He was born in 1931 in Pasadena, California, with the name Charles Flint Waterman. His father, Crawford Waterman was an aviator, and his mother, Grace Lewis, a pianist. At a young age he lost his father, and after his mother remarried, he later took the last name of character actor and businessman John Thomas. He spent his childhood, along with his brother Crawford John Thomas, in the Los Angeles area.
Charles received a B.A. from UCLA, an M.A. from USC, and an MA and Ph.D from Baylor University. He served as Professor of English at Howard Payne University, and served there for several years as Head of the English Department and Chairman of the Humanities Division. In 1989 he began residency in Japan, where he was appointed Professor of English and American Literature in the Graduate Department at Baiko Jo Gakuin College and Professor of English Literature at Fukuoka Jo Gakuin College. In 1994 he became a Professor of English and American Literature at Kyushu University, Japan.
As an author, Charles published a four volume literary reference series titled Art and Architecture in the Poetry of Robert Browning. Through extensive travel and research, Charles Thomas created a comprehensive guide of real sources for the numerous references and allusions to the paintings, sculptures and architecture within Browning’s poetry. The series was completed in 2013 with a two-DVD video guide. The inspiration for this life’s work he explains:
Where did the gift come from? I do not know.
Acting, lecturing, research had an impact
On my gushing creative juices,
But the profusion, how to account for that?
If he were alive, I would ask Verdi
How he, around his eighties, wrote Falstaff,
And he would say, “Write sonnets, ballads galore.
What is late age for? Write memoirs, essays, more!”
Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made . . .
Charles Thomas is survived by his niece, Jonelle Thomas-Pickett; a grandniece; and two grandnephews.