On this day in 1931, Billie Thomas was born. Who?! One word: Buckwheat. He was the best known of the black Our Gang kids — and one of only a handful who anyone could name. He started in the role at the age of three. And he continued in the role to the end of the series in 1944. At this point, the character of Buckwheat has kind of a bad reputation because of its being a racial stereotype. That may well be, but at a time when America and its military were segregated, I think Buckwheat was an overall positive character in the series. And it was a hell of a part, and Thomas was great in it.
After Our Gang, Thomas had a reasonably good life by the standards of the people who had been in the series. If you’ve ever researched it, you know that by and large, they had fairly terrible lives. But Thomas went on to become a film tech for Technicolor. But he did share one thing with his colleagues: he died young. In 1980, he died of a heart attack. He was just 49 years old.
Here is a little bit of Buckwheat in the early years when the character was still a girl:
Happy birthday Billie Thomas!