Thursday, May 24, 2012

Getting to Know... Sue Thomas

Sue Thomas became the FBI’s first deaf agent and even had a TV show based on her life (The PAX show Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye). She was born on this date (May 24) in 1950. She grew up in Youngstown, Ohio, where her parents discovered she was deaf at the age of 18 months old. Thomas was sent to an oral school and mainstreamed. She learned to read lips and speak naturally, but was still mercilessly taunted. She sought refuge at a local skating rink where a determined coach helped her become state champion at the age of seven. She attended Springfield College in Massachusetts, earning  a degree in Political Science and International Affairs, before going to work at the FBI headquarters in Washington, DC in1979. She worked in a program to train deaf people to classify fingerprints. After she successfully told agents what was said in a surveillance video of a gambling operation which had no audio, word spread of her ability to read lips. She served as a tour guide and made appearances on behalf of the Bureau. Thomas left Washington to attend South Carolina's Columbia Graduate School of Bible and Missions in 1983. She ended up in California where she began working with the U.S. Center for World Mission. Her 1990 autobiography entitled Silent Night was the basis for the show. In 2001, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She now lives in Vermont. Below is a video from 2010 of her speaking at a Bill and Gloria Gaither Homecoming special (no captioning).

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