One of television's most beloved and successful entertainers, Danny Thomas (1914-1991) spent his life doing much for others.
Born Muzyad Yahkoob in Deerfield, Michigan, he began in show business as a traveling singer and comic. His comedy shtick included witticisms, sentimentality, and zinging one-liners.
His need to settle down inspired the autobiographical premise for his series Make Room For Daddy (1953-1957), a pioneer in family sitcoms. Before each show, Thomas would do an off-camera stand-up routine for his television audience. This "warm-up" that he created is now an industry standard.
"The great thing about my father was that he was a very honest character. He was very much the everyday man who understood the plights and frailties of humans," said son Tony Thomas.
Danny was also immensely successful as a television producer, collaborating with powerhouses Sheldon Leonard and Aaron Spelling to produce many classic programs. In 1960, The Andy Griffith Show was the first real spin-off for network TV, originating in The Danny Thomas Show. Thomas is also personally responsible for casting Mary Tyler Moore as Laura Petrie in the Dick Van Dyke Show.
Few equal Thomas' commitment to philanthropy. In 1962, he founded St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee to help find cures for children's cancer and other catastrophic illnesses. Thomas insisted that knowledge gained from the cutting-edge research facility would be "freely shared with the rest of the world" and that "no child would be refused treatment based on an inability to pay."
St. Jude has helped over 20,000 children from over 60 foreign countries. In 1991, President George H. Bush called the center "a symbol of the love one man had for his fellow man."
"We must not slacken our efforts to do good to all," Thomas once said, "Especially those with needs that will not be met if we fail in our common task of service to humanity."
True success is measured by what you do for others.