After stumbling upon journalism at a ‘majors fair’ at Pfeiffer University, Rick Thames never thought he would help solve a United States Military crime.
The Rockingham, NC native is in his second year at Queens University of Charlotte as a visiting professor in journalism. Thames, 64, teaches History and Principles of Journalism and Entrepreneurial Journalism.
“Charlotte is becoming such an important place, not just for the Carolina’s but for the country,” said Thames, describing one of the main reasons why he chose to come to Queens. “I would love to see a school that can help people become great journalists.”
Thames’ goal for the students at Queens was to incorporate more real world scenarios and put all of his experience into this curriculum. Chloe Rosario, a student under Thames, had immense praise for her History and Principles of Journalism professor. “We’re not just being lectured about something he had to learn about too but something that he actually experienced, and I really enjoy hearing those stories,” she said.
After gathering nearly 40 years of experience in the journalism field, Thames thought it would be a good idea to step into the world of teaching. He had an opportunity to teach a social media course at Davidson College as a guest professor and knew he wanted to help shape future journalists.
First time student of Thames, Jeannette Jones, said he is a major contribution to her blossoming love of journalism. “The first day of class he shared a bit of his background in the journalism world and I think it’s great to have a professor with so much experience in this field as he does and it makes his class all that more enjoyable,” she said.
Thames was a rookie reporter at the Fayetteville Observer when he received a phone call that changed his career. The voice on the other end of the phone said previous soldier deaths that took place on a nearby base were no accident, but were instead a misuse of a parachute. Thames pushed for more information but the anonymous source said it would cost them their job, but they did tell Thames where to find the documents that would prove this carelessness.
Once Thames brought this story to life, the army’s command structure, who had initially ignored the safety inspectors, changed its procedures so these accidents were to not happen again. The recent college grad and rookie reporter was hooked on journalism from this point on.
“Each time you look at your story, there’s an accomplishment there and you can say, ‘I helped bring that to life,’” said Thames.
Another monumental story he covered was the murder trial of Dr. JeffreyMacDonald. MacDonald was a physician and US Army officer who was accused of murdering his pregnant wife and two daughters in 1970. In 1979, Thames interviewed MacDonald as the prosecution was presenting evidence in the trial.
Thames went on to become Executive Editor of the Charlotte Observer in 2004. After retiring from the Charlotte Observer in 2017, Thames became a member on the Board of Trustees for the North Carolina Humanities Council. When not serving on the board, Thames can be found hiking, on the tennis court, and seeking out new local restaurants with his wife.
While he has lived several other places, Thames says Charlotte is his favorite place to explore. Some of his favorite places to visit outside of Charlotte are Redwoods, CA and southern France.
Some people choose to stay retired after an impressive 40 year career, but Rick Thames is just beginning his work in shaping the future generations of journalists.