First Black president of KFOA is a ‘great leader’

By Steve Williams

Among the many hats Adronicus ‘Bam’ Thomas has worn since he came to Knoxville from rural central Alabama in the 1980s, the ‘white hat’ he wears as a high school football referee means as much to him as any other.

His chest swelled a little more with pride too at the end of last season when his peers elected him as the first Black president in the Knoxville Football Officials Association.

“I don’t have anything but positive things to say about the KFOA,” said Thomas, who is nearing his 20th season in the association after coming in “green” as an official. “It’s like a big fraternity to me. All the guys have been fair and good to me and willing to help me.

“Being the first Black, I feel honored that the KFOA would choose me as their president and I’m just looking forward to keeping everything going in a positive direction.

“I’ve got some big shoes to fill because everybody that was ahead of me as president – I respect a lot.”

Bam progressed in high school officiating to the point that “he was traveling all over the country doing small college football,” said Harold Denton, a longtime supervisor in the KFOA. “Obviously, we are happy to have him as president of our association. He’s a great leader, great personality, quiet and subtle – just gets it done. It’s phenomenal.”

Thomas got his nickname ‘Bam’ from a character in the Flintstones cartoon show of the 1960s. ‘Bam-Bam’ was a super-strong baby boy in the show.

“My Aunt Sarah told my mom when she was pregnant with me that she was going to have a ‘Bam-Bam’ and at the time they didn’t know if the baby was going to be a girl or a boy,” Thomas would learn. “When I came out a boy, I’ve been Bam ever since.”

Thomas, who also is a basketball referee in the Knox South Association, said his family members and referee friends call him Bam, while he is called Adronicus in his professional life.

Bam was raised in a town called Goodwater, which had a population of about 3,000 and is close to Montgomery and Talledega.

“I had a good childhood,” he remembers. “Grew up in the country and got to run. Good things that I would never get to do, I think, if I was in the city. I had a good childhood. I have no complaints; none at all. I can go home a lot. I still got all my siblings there.”

Knoxville became his home as an adult, but he still has roots in Alabama.

Bam came to Knoxville in 1986 to go to Knoxville College and play football. A running back, he was a three-year starter and four-year letterman on the team and a scholar in the classroom, graduating in 1991-92 with a B.S. in Mathematics.

Thomas, now 55, is a Public Housing Senior Property Manager with KCDC.

Adronicus also will soon start his second term on the Knox County Election Commission. He was appointed by State Representative Sam McKenzie.

Thomas has been involved in the community for many years in various capacities, including serving as a founding member of the Center City Youth Sports Program (CCYSP), which provides an opportunity for inter-city youth to participate in a youth sports league.

Bam will serve a one-year term as the KFOA president and then decide in November if he wants to run again for the position.

As president, he said he will oversee all daily activities of the KFOA, participate on all of the association’s many committees, and along with the vice president, the assigning officer and assistant assigning officer and the supervisors, will be responsible for appointing the chairman of each committee.

The KFOA president also will play a role in selecting the crews, helping assigning officers schedule the games, making sure officials are registered through the state and collecting dues.

“My sole purpose is to recruit,” said Thomas. “This is what I ran on – to recruit younger officials. We are in great need of officials. That’s going to be my objective – to go out, identify and recruit younger officials because without officials, this game that has been so good to us won’t be able to continue.”

Thomas has a daughter who was named Christina in honor of his mother, Christine, who had passed away. He also has a grandson, Cordarrell, who is 4 years old. “He’s my motivation,” said Bam.

“He calls me GDaddy. He knows I’m a ref, but he just wants to play or think he is a football player,” added Bam with a smile.