I ran across these photos in a Baker scrapbook that I found on the top shelf of their library a couple of years ago. It’s a Mark Twain impersonator, and a darn good one too:
It is, of course, long serving Rice English professor J.D. Thomas, who took up this act late in his career. Thomas came to Rice in 1930 and stayed around until his death in 1993. These photos were with materials from the late 1970’s and that looks reasonable to me.
Here he is in 1944, a young instructor exiting Cohen House:
Thomas was, by the way, something of a character. Here’s the “Autographic sonobituary” that was published at his death. It’s pretty entertaining:
From my own particular perspective, J.D. Thomas is a hero. I have slogged through the minutes of every single faculty meeting from their inception in 1912 until last year and the years when Thomas was secretary of the faculty are an oasis in a very, very dry desert. He had a real gift for turning the usually latent comedy of faculty debates into full fledged, open hilarity. I suspect people actually read them.
Bonus: Tommy Lavergne says this is coral vine. It’s really thick and beautiful and there were bees buzzing all around it.