Thomas Gavin

Known as “Buck” to his bandmates, Thomas Gavin was completing his freshman year at A&T when he became one of the first 13 to enlist; he graduated from A and T in 1949 and had several offers to be a band director. He started the band at Fayetteville State and in the mid-50s began also teaching auto mechanics. He began teaching in public schools in the late 1950s.

He said that he was offered band jobs because he played; he got the auto mechanics teaching job from his renown with cars. At A and T, he recalled, “I had a car I had sort of assembled. It was a little souped up, you could say. It started out as a ’35 Plymouth but it had a ’41 Dodge engine, and all kinds of parts in it. Turns out it was just a good running, fast car.” In addition to his work with the Rhythm Vets, he also played with Max Westerband while in Greensboro, and for over 20 years with Paul Reichle in Fayetteville.

Thomas Gavin married Martha Trice, who was also a public school teacher. They had three sons and a daughter: Tommie, III: Jimmie; Victor; and Marthella Briddell.

When I met Mr. Gavin, on June 12, 1986, I asked him why he had a front license plate on his car that said “Earth.” He looked at me like I was crazy, smiled, and said, “That’s where I’m from, man.” I repeated this anecdote for most of my classes at ECU, as an example of how naming our place can also define it as well as eradicate the barriers that separate some of our places–from a longer view, the walls disappear. 

Watch him perform “Lover Man” and “Now’s the Time” with the Lou Donaldson Quartet in a 1987 performance in Fayetteville, NC.