Today we honor entertainer and humanitarian Danny Thomas (1912–1991), star of radio, film, and television. A generous philanthropist, Thomas founded St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, which treats children with catastrophic pediatric diseases regardless of race, religion, or the ability of a family to pay.
Danny Thomas was the consummate entertainer. As a young boy, he mastered the dialects and mannerisms of the immigrant communities in which he grew up, developing a unique gift for storytelling. After making several feature films, he starred in Make Room for Daddy, a popular television comedy that aired from 1953 to 1964. Later, Thomas produced such successful television shows as The Andy Griffith Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show, and The Mod Squad.
In 1962, Thomas founded St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. Known all his life for his strong Roman Catholic faith, Thomas recalled that during the early days of his career, he prayed to St. Jude Thaddeus, patron saint of hopeless causes: “Show me my way in life and I will build you a shrine.” Today, the hospital named for the saint treats children with cancer and other catastrophic diseases regardless of race, religion, or the ability of a family to pay. The hospital is founded on Thomas’ belief that “no child should die in the dawn of life.”
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital now partners and collaborates with various hospitals and institutions across the United States and around the world to treat catastrophically ill children. Pioneering research is also a vital part of St. Jude mission, and the hospital is frequently credited with helping drastically increase childhood cancer survival rates. In 2009, Parents magazine named St. Jude the nation’s top pediatric cancer care hospital. In 2010, U.S. News & World Report named St. Jude the nation’s top children’s cancer hospital.
Fundraising for St. Jude, which operates at a cost of $1.6 million per day, is overseen by American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities. Co-founded by Thomas in 1957, ALSAC is now one of the largest health-care charities in the United States.
In recognition of his humanitarian work, Thomas received a Congressional Gold Medal in 1985. He died in Los Angeles, California, on February 6, 1991, at the age of 79.
In 2004, at the 56th Annual Emmy Awards, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences posthumously awarded Thomas the Bob Hope Humanitarian Award. Dick Askin, the chairman of the Academy at the time, said: “Danny Thomas is a legend, one of the pioneers of television, as not only a performer, but as a very successful producer. But as popular as he was in television, those achievements paled in comparison to his unparalleled contribution to children, by founding St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.”
Thomas and his wife, Rose Marie, who died in 2000, are interred on the grounds of the hospital he considered his most important accomplishment. “That’s my epitaph,” he told the New York Times in January 1991, just weeks before he died. “It’s right on the cornerstone: Danny Thomas, founder.”
The Danny Thomas stamp is being issued in panes of 20 self-adhesive Forever® stamps. Forever stamps are always equal in value to the current First-Class Mail one-ounce rate.
Danny Thomas’s image used under license.