Thigpen wants to preserve city’s history by sharing memories with its natives

Published 10:16 am Friday, April 19, 2013

E. J. Thigpen Jr., a native of Bogalusa, has never forgotten his roots. He will be back in town next week to begin a project he believes is necessary to let the young people of today’s Bogalusa get a sense of what has come before.

“Sadly,” he said, “a project in Bogalusa presenting its history has been lacking.”

He’s determined to remedy that.

Thigpen himself, who now lives in Lakewood, Colo., has done much in his own life to add to that history.

The son of the late Mr. and Mrs. E.J. Thigpen Sr. of Bogalusa, he graduated from Bogalusa High School, then earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Louisiana State University in 1953. After that he earned a LLB from the University of Denver Law School.

Thigpen joined the Air Force, where he completed tours of duty in Japan and Germany before being assigned in 1959 to the technical training center at Lowry Air Force Base in Denver. Tech Sgt. Thigpen was selected from a group of 14 nominees to become a member of the 1254th Air Transport Wing Special Mission (MATS), which is based at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. The MATS unit was assigned the task of providing transportation to President John F. Kennedy, the vice president, cabinet members, foreign dignitaries and members of Congress. Thigpen served as the training technician for mechanics with the unit.

After his tour of duty with the Air Force, Thigpen returned to Denver to complete his education, earning a JD degree from the University of Denver in 1963.

Now Thigpen wants to leave behind a legacy of an oral history of Bogalusa as told by residents and former residents in their own words.

Thigpen will return to Bogalusa next week, and on Friday he will host a belated birthday party (he was born Jan. 3, 1924) for himself and four other Bogalusa natives whose names he will reveal at the party.

“Come and enjoy the coffee and cake and help celebrate my belated birthday,” Thigpen said.

In addition, he hopes that many attendees will get up and talk about growing up in Bogalusa.

The event, which will be charging a $1 admission fee, will be held April 26 in the meeting room at Western Sizzlin in Bogalusa from 1:30-4 p.m. Coffee and cake will be served “on the house,” he said. And the $1 admission fee? That is to be donated to the charity chosen by attendees. Each person, he said, will write down his or her favorite charity, and the winner will be drawn at random. All proceeds will then be donated to that organization.

The most important thing to Thigpen, however, is for everyone to participate in telling their stories.

“I want to start a movement of getting a living history of those who grew up in Bogalusa.” He asked that “old timers” come out and tell the young folks today what it was like growing up in the Bogalusa of the ’20s, ’30s, ’40s and ’50s.

Thigpen, who visits his hometown fairly often, plans to stay for about 10 days this time.