Danny Thomas: Freemason and Humanitarian

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Steven L. Harrison, 33°, FMLR

Danny Thomas (1912 – 1991), a member of Gothic Lodge 270 in Hamilton Square, New Jersey, was an American nightclub entertainer, television star, and producer. Born Amos Muzyad Yakhoob Kairouz, Brother Thomas was best known for his role in the television show "Make Room for Daddy."  A devout Roman Catholic, Brother Thomas was also an avid golfer with a handicap of ten, one of the original owners of the Miami Dolphins, the sponsor of two PGA tour tournaments, and the first non-Jewish member of Hillcrest country club in Los Angeles.

 Creating an American Icon

It's a little-known fact that in a 1960 episode of his TV show, Thomas was inadvertently responsible for creating an American icon.  In that episode, a country-bumpkin sheriff stopped Thomas' character for speeding.  The plot followed Thomas' trials and tribulations while dealing with the small-town sheriff, who was also the town judge and newspaper editor.  That popular episode turned out to be a pilot for one of TV's most enduring series, "The Andy Griffith Show." It featured the exploits of that country sheriff. Griffith was not a Freemason, but held the Fraternity in high regard and actually got his comedic start playing summers at the Dare County Shrine Club in North Carolina. 

His Daughter "That Girl"

Brother Thomas also helped his daughter, Marlo, get started in her acting career in the situation comedy "That Girl." In it, Marlo portrayed a young woman on her own in New York. The show is recognized as the first television series to feature an independent single working woman. In 1969, Thomas made a cameo appearance on it playing a priest. In his only scene, his daughter bumps into him and says, "Excuse me, Father." Danny replies, "That's all right, my child." Many did not get the inside joke.

Doing a "Danny Thomas"

Thomas' comedic trademark was the spit-take. On many occasions on his situation comedy and also other shows, Thomas could be seen taking a drink and then reacting to something another character said by spraying the drink out of his mouth. Some even credit Thomas with inventing the spit-take. While that is not accurate he certainly was the comedian who perfected it. In fact, during his time, a spit-take from any character became known as "doing a Danny Thomas."

His Greatest Accomplishment

In 1962, Thomas founded St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, based on the premise that "no child should die in the dawn of life." The hospital today is one of the premier institutions for children's health care, treating children with all forms of cancer and other devastating diseases. Its operating expenditures amount to nearly $3 million per day, but no patient is charged for the services it provides. Among his many professional and humanitarian successes, St. Jude's is considered to be Brother Thomas' most important accomplishment.

Brother Thomas was also a member of the Scottish Rite and Al Malaikah Shrine in Los Angeles.  He received the Congressional Gold Medal and in 2012, the US Postal Service honored him by issuing a "Forever" stamp recognizing his humanitarian accomplishments.

He died in Los Angeles on February 6, 1991, of heart failure.  Just two days before that, the 79-year-old entertainer had filmed a commercial to celebrate St. Jude's 29th anniversary.  The commercial aired after his death.  He is buried on the hospital's grounds in Memphis, Tennessee.


Bro. Steve Harrison, 33°  is Past Master of Liberty Lodge #31, Liberty, Missouri. He is also a Fellow and Past Master of the Missouri Lodge of Research. Among his other Masonic memberships is the St. Joseph Missouri Valley of the Scottish Rite, Liberty York Rite bodies, and Moila Shrine. He is also a member and Past Dean of the DeMolay Legion of Honor. Brother Harrison is a regular contributor to the Midnight Freemasons blog as well as several other Masonic publications. Brother Steve was Editor of the Missouri Freemason magazine for a decade and is a regular contributor to the Whence Came You podcast. Born in Indiana, he has a Master's Degree from Indiana University and is retired from a 35-year career in information technology. Steve and his wife Carolyn reside in northwest Missouri. He is the author of dozens of magazine articles and three books: Freemasonry Crosses the Mississippi, Freemasons — Tales From the Craft and Freemasons at Oak Island.

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