By Micha Green
AFRO D.C. Editor
More than 40 years ago, Judith Thomas had a brief interview opportunity to work for legendary broadcaster Larry King, and that chance meeting turned into an almost 20-year tenure with the “King of Talk,” plus a friendship that would last until his death on Jan. 23.
“I was a young African-American woman when my friends Tammy Haddad, and Mary Tydings arranged an interview for me with “Talk Meister” and broadcast legend, Larry King,” said Thomas, who lives in Laurel, Md. and works as a network analyst for IT at Johns Hopkins University.
“This was almost forty years ago. I was then on the staff at Mutual Broadcasting Systems, as a special assistant in the Travel and Special Projects department. I was advised that my interview would be on the run, as Larry would be rushing into the studio from an event at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts,” Thomas said reflecting on the day she was to meet a man who changed her life.
“Sure enough, Larry ran into the studio with his tuxedo on, preparing to sit behind the mic as he had for so many years for his popular and highly rated, ‘Larry King Radio Show,’ when he looked at me and said, ‘So Judy, what do you think qualifies you to work on my show?’ I responded, ‘My mom and dad told me I could do anything I wanted to do…Just like you put on your pants everyday to go to work…I put on my dress, and I go to work everyday.’ Larry looked at me and said, ‘You’re hired!’”
King’s hiring style, Thomas learned, was a glimpse into the man for whom she worked for almost two decades.
“That was Larry King… fair, decent, generous, straight-forward and direct, there was no prejudicial or discriminatory bone in his body. My hiring led to an exciting and extraordinary journey for almost twenty years. There was me, an African-American woman, longtime colleagues, Tammy Hadid [and] Mary Tydings, and so many other women,” Thomas said. “There were no Hidden Figures with Larry.”
“He would tell everyone, ‘Call Judy!,’ and I was so proud, on his behalf, to answer the call,” Thomas reflected. “He always acknowledged me in his books. In one he wrote, ‘Without Judy, you could look up ‘calamity’ in the dictionary, and find a picture of me.’
As an employee for King, Thomas worked as a studio assistant, associate producer for his radio and television shows, personal assistant and vice president of Larry King Enterprises and served as the first executive director of the Larry King Cardiac Foundation.
“My love and condolences go out to the entire King family and those who loved Larry, which, in my opinion, includes millions of people around the globe,” Thomas said. “My dear friend fought a good fight and lived a full life. Larry loved life and was always curious about what was next.”
Thomas, who is a mother and grandmother said King made a huge impact, not only on her life, but her family’s as well. However, King once wrote that Thomas’ efforts added value to his busy life.
“In another he wrote, ‘And to my assistant, Judy Thomas… who finds time in the schedule for me to look out the window,’” Thomas said King wrote in one of his books.
“Larry, enjoy looking out from the window of Heaven. I am so very thankful for the impact you’ve had on my life; my son, Jerel’s life; and, that of my family. You were a Prince among men and a much loved friend. Good night, Sweet Prince,” Thomas said in a statement.