James ‘Graham’ Thomas remembered
Tuesday, 14 April 2020
graham-thomas-and-chris-cronin-1982Graham Thomas with Chris Cronan
USA/Europe - James ‘Graham’ Thomas, founding partner of James Thomas Engineering, has died. The industry has been paying tribute to Graham who retired from the business in 2014 when JTE became part of Area Four Industries.
“All of us at JTE were saddened to hear that Graham ‘James’ Thomas, original founding partner of James Thomas Engineering passed away overnight,” says JTE’s website. “Graham and his partner, John Walters, started JTE in Worcestershire, England in 1977 and their designs became synonymous with the growth and look of rock ‘n’ roll productions throughout the 80s & 90s, in the U.K., in the United States and across the world.
“Graham Thomas and John Walters pioneered the Thomas Spun Aluminum PAR Can and Thomas Pre Rigged Truss, making both widely available for the entire industry globally. The name Thomas is synonymous with trussing and lighting fixtures.
“Graham truly was one of the founding fathers of the truss and rigging entertainment technology industry that we know today. All of us at JTE and Area Four Industries would like to pass on our condolences to Graham’s friends and family.”
John and Graham were both in other industries and began making spun aluminium Par cans on the side, at a time when the steel Altman was the industry standard. Other UK firms were engaged and involved in the early days, but once John and Graham began mass producing PARs, James Thomas Engineering took off.
Dizzy Gosnell (then of Meteorlites) and Ronan Wilson worked with John and Graham to come up with the original Thomas Pre-Rigged Truss, as well as the original Thomas Ground Support Tower. Chris Cronan was the primary source of design and ideas, and James Thomas Engineering became synonymous with the world of rock n’ roll lighting.
Shortly thereafter, Michael T. Strickland of Bandit Lites joined the team and started taking the Thomas products to the United States and brought Mike Garl on board to run the US Thomas operation.
Thomas quickly made all types of fixtures, from Cyc lights to battens, to all sizes of Parss. The Thomas 8 Light became the global standard. Thomas also played a key role in the establishment of Socapex and 18 core multicable becoming a global standard, as they supplied the entire industry with both.
From Thomas sprung other firms, including Tomcat, Total Fabrication, I-Pix and several others downstream.
“The overall legacy of Graham Thomas and John Walters is one that is vast yet largely unknown,” said Strickland. “John passed away a few years back with little fanfare, and it is important we not let the passing of a man whose last name and products we know so well. The entire industry should celebrate the life of Graham Thomas and recognise his major impact on the entertainment industry. Rest in peace, Graham.”
(Jim Evans)

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