Athens Review, Athens, Texas

January 20, 2014

Tye is gone, but forever in our hearts

Kathi Nailling
The Athens Review

GUN BARREL CITY — I will admit it. In my business, I meet people I don't always have anything in common with. That's okay – that's what makes life interesting.

About 20 years ago, I met a young man named Tye Thomas. Tye, I believe was about 15,  a student at Mabank High School. I was much older than Tye. We don't have to say how much older.

My point is, I could carry on very adult conversations with this young man. We would have in-depth conversations about all kinds of topics.

We lost Tye this week at the very young age of 35. Some things just can't be explained.

At the time I met Tye, he was publishing a magazine called Cedar Creek Briefs. This was not a Texas Monthly or Time Magazine, but it was very impressive for a 15-year-old  to come up with this concept.

I was the Advertising Director at the Cedar Creek Pilot when I first laid eyes on Tye Thomas. The company printing his magazine was an advertiser in the Pilot. The owner showed me his magazine, and told me the young man who was 15-years-old  wrote the stories, sold the ads and collected the money. She put the magazine together, and did the printing. My exact words were “very bright young man.”

My friend told Tye about our conversation. A few days later, Tye showed up at the Cedar Creek Pilot to meet me. As I had heard about him, he had heard about me. He said he knew I had an extensive newspaper background. That started our 20-year connection. The two of us   shared almost nothing in common, other than we both loved newspapers. I have always said about Tye, “He is a very bright, intelligent young man.”

As the years passed Tye graduated from high school, went to college in Rhode Island, and moved back to  Cedar Creek Lake to start his political career.

Tye returned to Cedar Creek Lake to run for the Mayor of Gun Barrel City and start two newspapers.

Yes I said two. First it was Lakeview News in Gun Barrel City.  Later the same year, he started Henderson County News in Athens. 

I have been in the newspaper business a very long time. A start-up newspaper is very difficult. Especially when there are already two papers at Cedar Creek Lake. In Athens, Tye went into direct competition with a daily paper. He was in a no-win situation.

At that time in Tye's life he just didn't realize how hard it would be to compete in an already competitive market. It was his youth and the fact Tye wanted everything now. Not later, but now.

As Tye was trying to start his two papers, he also put his hat in the ring to become the youngest Mayor in Texas by becoming the Mayor of Gun Barrel City. Tye filed as a Republican to run for office. He became a rising star in the Republican party. 

The same year, he became the youngest delegate to the electoral college. He casted his vote for George W. Bush. There were national and state politicians who had big plans for Tye.

Tye and I at this point were not what one would consider great friends. I lived in Gun Barrel City when Tye asked me if I was going to vote for him for mayor. He was 20-years-old.

My response was, “Tye, I am the voting public. You try to convince me to vote for you.”

For whatever reason he didn't try to convince me. What he did do was write a letter to me, trying to convince me to vote for him.

The 3-page letter was very well-written. I have to admit I kept the letter, because I thought some day this young man was going to be the Governor of Texas. He had made that strong of an impression.

Letter or no letter, I chose not to vote for Tye. His opponent, Charlies Robinson, only garnished 33 percent of the vote. Tye became the youngest Mayor in Texas. In my opinion, Tye was doing too much, too soon. Very young for such responsibilities.

Tye's tenure of Mayor only lasted 54 weeks, but it was an interesting 54 weeks, if you worked for a newspaper. We never lacked for news, thanks to Tye. When I think about Tye today, I believe he also enjoyed the spotlight. As long as you are in the headlines, who cares if it is good news or bad news.

I have only seen Tye a few times since he resigned as Mayor of Gun Barrel City. I have been following him on Facebook. To my surprise, Tye Thomas, the staunch Republican, switched political parties.

I just had to know why he made that drastic move.  I sent him an e-mail  asking when the transformation from Republican to Democrat happened. His response: “I finally grew up.” 

I will leave the interpretation of that statement up to people who may have known Tye better than myself.

We didn't always agree with each other, but I respected who Tye had been, and who he could have become.  If success in life is truly being missed, and remembered long after you are gone, Tye definitely was successful.

But I can see why God would want you, because you truly were an angel on Earth.

Kathi Nailling is a Staff Writer with the Athens Daily Review.