Mayor Thomas A Masters is currently in his fourth term as mayor of the City of Riviera Beach. But back in the 1960s he was better known as The Reverend Thomas H Masters (no, I don’t know why H then and A now, although I believe the H stood for Harrison) the Wonder Boy Preacher.
I’ll Fly Away and be at Rest, listed on the label as a ‘sermonette’, was issued by Rhoda Records when Masters was just nine years old. A precocious bugger, a year earlier he released another 45 – again on Rhoda Records – a recording of a sermon entitled A Fool on a Mule (in the Middle of the Road). Split over two sides of a 7”, this was credited to ‘8 year old Wonder Boy Preacher Thomas H Masters’, sans the Reverend. Confusingly the boy became ‘licensed’ as a preacher sometime between his eighth and ninth birthdays but wasn’t ordained until he was 12. By 16 he had issued four albums – What is Your Destiny in a Sinful and Dying World, The Midnight Cry, The Storm is Passing Over and Sometimes I Dream of Things and Say Why? Credited this time to Rev Thomas Masters the Wonder Boy, according to the liner notes on the last of these albums the Reverend Masters preached his first sermon at the tender age of three ‘before most children have acquired the knack of raiding the cookie jar’!
Now a Bishop as well as a Mayor, I feel a bit of a fraud for posting this. Bishop Masters seems to be a genuinely lovely man, very well-respected and clearly doing grand things in his community. He’s also been photographed with Barack and Michelle – a lot! But this is horrible and so deserves to be archived here – along with its’ B-Side The High Cost of Low Living - at the World’s Worst Records for all to hear. Master Masters has that ridiculous habit of gurning like a loon at the end of each line ‘I’m going to fly away–uhhhrgh/Lord Jesus I’m going to a land that will never go-uhhhrgh’… you get the idea. It’s not a truly awful record, in fact the backing chorus and accompanists are rather endearing, but the prepubescent caterwauling leaves a lot to be desired. he sounds as if he's trying to shift a particularly stubborn bowel movement.
Bishop Thomas is the youngest of the six children of the late Isabell Masters – an amazing woman who was a five-time third-party candidate for President of the United States. Her five presidential campaigns (on behalf of the Looking Back Party) are the most for any woman in U.S. history. Bishop Thomas’s father Alfred became the first African American to enlist in the United States Marines when he was sworn in on June 1, 1942. The marriage disintegrated after thy ear, leaving Isabell to raise six children alone. Despite that, she obtained her master's degree in higher education from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and later earned a doctorate from the University of Oklahoma during her late 60s. Bishop Thomas himself achieved a degree of notoriety when he protested efforts of George W. Bush’s legal team to stop the Florida election recount following the controversial 2000 United States presidential election.
She also helped Bishop Thomas start his preaching career. “Mother was supportive, but I really think she thought I would grow out of it,” he told the Palm Beach Post. “At the time I had a speech impediment and she was uncertain (but) she decided that if it was from God, I would preach.”
I feel even more of a heel now. Or should I say that I did until I discovered that the man who served more than 20 years as a community activist in California before relocating to Florida in 1987 to serve as pastor of the New Macedonia Baptist Church has also been prosecuted for rape against a disabled man with the mind of a seven-year-old. According to a 2003 story in the Palm Beach Post, Masters, his church and deacon ‘reached a $600,000 settlement with a mentally disabled man who accused the minister of rape.’
The report states that Masters and the church’s insurers negotiated the settlement with the man, who had accused Masters of coercing him to smoke crack cocaine and then raping him twice on church property over Thanksgiving weekend in 1991. Police investigated, but no charges were filed.
‘In 1998 a jury awarded the man more than $2 million after finding against Masters, and against his church and Deacon Joseph Lawrence for failing to investigate the allegations. But the 4th District Court of Appeal threw out that verdict in June, citing procedural errors during the first trial and noting that the mentally disabled man had repeatedly changed his story.
The parties opted to negotiate a settlement instead of going to trial again.’
Whatever the truth of the matter may be Mayor Bishop Masters - as he likes to be referred to - has testified before the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva and has led marches against drug dealing, drive-by shootings, the Ku Klux Klan and the 2000 presidential election results. He also challenged state and national laws that allow minors to be sentenced to death and to be sent to adult prisons.
But this record is still horrible.