Selma businessman Thomas E. Towns dies

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 4, 2003

Well-known Selma businessman and entrepreneur Thomas Earl Towns Sr. died Oct. 29 at his home after a lengthy battle with cancer.

Born May 24, 1927, in Birmingham, he was the son of Maude Hamlin Towns and Jack Towns Sr. After the death of his father in 1928, the family moved to Selma.

He received his education from Selma University. During the Great Depression, as the eldest child in his family he assumed responsibility far beyond his years. At age 13 after school each day he walked from Sylvan Street to Craig Air Base and worked at the Craig Air Base Officers Club. Even as a very young man, he was aware &045; and often said &045; that &uot;work is the key to success.&uot;

His family moved to New York shortly after World War II began and Towns enlisted in the Army. While stationed in Germany he was cited as an &uot;efficient soldier with a strong will.&uot; At the age of 19 he was assigned as Post Exchange manager at his base.

After discharge from the Army, he joined the Merchant Marine (National Maritime Union), serving from 1950-1970 as ship’s carpenter / joiner on the luxury liners S.S. Independence, S.S. United States, S.S. Constitution and the hospital ship S.S. Hope.

Towns returned to Selma after retirement, his first, and began a career in Selma’s business world.

He opened a Laundromat on the corner of Washington Street and Griffin Avenue, a restaurant called &uot;Towns’s Chicken&uot; and a convenience store, only a few of the businesses in which he was involved. Many young families knew him through the houses he bought and refurbished into livable and affordable dwelling places for them. He was known throughout the community as an unselfish man who rarely refused help to anyone who needed it.

Towns was also a teacher, sharing his knowledge of carpentry with whomever was willing to learn the trade.

A devoted and dedicated family man, he contributed quietly to the good of the community as a whole, but without fanfare. Those who have homes, jobs and vocational skills through his generosity remember him as a man &uot;big in heart and strong in spirit.&uot;

His funeral service will be at 1 p.m. Saturday at Freedom Baptist Church.