We, the community, often ask, “Where are the role models for the youth of today?” Especially in the African-American community. Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a party for a person who was retiring from ExxonMoil after more than 39 years of employment.

However, what was most striking about the event were the comments from his family, friends and former co-workers. There were the usual comments about his being a good employee, but the majority of the comments were about him as a person and a man. From his children, grandchildren, other family members and friends, they all spoke of his being an ordinary man who did extraordinary things day in and day out.

A man, whose career was that of a pipefitter at ExxonMobil, but whose life was one of commitment to his family, friends and community. According to their stories, if you saw him out in the community after work he usually had on his ExxonMobil clothing, showing his commitment to his profession. But on just as many other occasions, you saw a man who showed love and commitment for his children as well as strangers. This was demonstrated by his willingness to accept a person in his home to live with his family during a time of need. Further, by his willingness to share his family with others to help coach youth in the community.

Darryl Wayne “Cornbread” Thomas Sr., a role model. Often times, we look past the neighbor like Thomas. We look for, and to, the high-profile public figure, entertainer or athlete. However, I suggest that we embrace the Darryl Thomases of the world as a rich field of community role models. People who day in and day out go to work, provide for their family, help their neighbors, love their children, struggle through life’s challenges and go to church. Ordinary men who on any given day can be found doing extraordinary things.

The portrait of a true role model: Darryl Wayne “Cornbread” Thomas Sr.

John F. Smith


Baton Rouge