- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 23, 2009

Millions of readers see him as a gentleman scribe, keen observer, stalwart.

Cal Thomas covers American issues - God and country, faith and family. It’s the nation’s lifeblood that drives this columnist.

He’s been at it for a quarter-century.

On April 23, 1984, Mr. Thomas’ first syndicated column appeared in The Washington Times, offering a poignant take on the children of divorce that immediately established him as a conservative voice to be reckoned with, and one that would last a quarter-century - at least.

“I don’t care about winning the argument. And I am not going to repeat the obvious or reinvent the wheel. I try to pick up on what’s been missed, and I want to produce solutions,” said Mr. Thomas, whose column now appears in 550 newspapers.

He pines for meaningful public discourse, credible journalism, civility between rivals. He has interviewed eight presidents, countless dignitaries, the celebrated and the humble. Mr. Thomas has written 11 books and at least 2,500 canny columns on all things political, cultural and civic.

“People tell me I am a voice for those who feel disenfranchised by a media that looks down on moral and spiritual matters. They say I am a spokesperson for their values,” Mr. Thomas said. “I am strong in my position, but I leave the door open for rational discussion.”

He’s got fans in influential places.

“Great things began in 1984. I started my career as a talk-show host, and newspapers saw Cal Thomas begin a 25-year run as one of the country’s most eloquent conservative voices as a syndicated columnist,” said radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh. “Cal is unapologetic and poignant in his defense of the traditions and institutions that make the United States the greatest country on earth. I always give his column a read, and look forward to his next one.”

At 6 feet 7 inches, with sonorous voice and the glint of challenge in his eye, Mr. Thomas is an indefatigable supplier of content and able combatant on the Fox News Channel, where he is a regular panelist.

Yet the battle is the last thing he’s interested in.

“We used to talk to each other, now we just talk at each other. There are more ways to communicate, but fewer conversations. The result is everybody is talking but fewer people are listening,” Mr. Thomas said.

The columnist advises conservatives to stop scrapping over ideology and concentrate on their successes, on what works. Mr. Thomas also practices civility, with pals on both sides of the aisle.

“Cal and I are both native Washingtonians who share a love of the theater we grew up with - all the road shows we saw at the National Theater - and of the theater of absurd that is politics,” said New York Times columnist and longtime friend Frank Rich.

“We have some different political views but share similar feelings - and many laughs - about the hypocrisies of those in power, regardless of party or politics, and about the circus that is political Washington. He’s a true original; he doesn’t march in step with any pack. I treasure our friendship.”

Mr. Thomas has gravitas built from the ground up. He was a local radio personality in the late 1950s, ran copy for NBC News and worked with the likes of David Brinkley. Mr. Thomas was a reporter and anchor for KPRC-TV in Houston and for NBC News in Washington, and hosted his own show on CNBC for two years.

He wrote his first book in 1983 and an unsolicited op-ed for the New York Times, landing a regular column with the Los Angeles Times Syndicate a few months later. His column is now syndicated by Tribune Media Services.

The Washington Times was the first of many newspapers to run his column.

“Cal quickly became a widely read attraction on our commentary pages, reaching out to audiences who thought they were ignored,” said Mary Lou Forbes, opinion editor at The Times. “He covers sensitive subjects with great professionalism and graceful writing. We’re proud of him.”

The columnist has honed his own perspective, meanwhile.

“We are losing a lot of the old journalistic ethic. The revolving door between politics and journalism has become common practice, and more people with political backgrounds are showing up as commentators and reporters. This deepens the level of the public’s cynicism about the media,” Mr. Thomas said.

“I’m not the most brilliant person on the planet. I do have the gift of expressing myself. When I first started this column, I was hoping to glorify God. Now I just hope He thinks that’s what I’ve been doing all these years,” he added.

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