Share This Episode
Our American Stories Lee Habeeb Logo

The FBI's First Deaf Agent: Sue Thomas' Story of Faith and Character

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
June 13, 2024 3:00 am

The FBI's First Deaf Agent: Sue Thomas' Story of Faith and Character

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

On-Demand Podcasts NEW!

This broadcaster has 2238 podcast archives available on-demand.

Broadcaster's Links

Keep up-to-date with this broadcaster on social media and their website.


June 13, 2024 3:00 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, Sue Thomas' story became the basis for the TV series Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye. She's here to share the story that Hollywood wouldn't touch!

Support the show (https://www.ouramericanstories.com/donate)

See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
Our American Stories
Lee Habeeb

There's a lot happening these days, but I have just the thing to get you up to speed on what matters without taking too much of your time. The Seven from The Washington Post is a podcast that gives you the seven most important and interesting stories, and we always try to save room for something fun.

You get it all in about seven minutes or less. I'm Hannah Jewell. I'll get you caught up with The Seven every weekday.

So follow The Seven right now. What's up? This is your boy Lil Duval. Check out my podcast, Conversations with Unk, on the Black Effect Podcast Network. Each and every Tuesday, Conversations with Unk podcast feature casuals and in-depth talk about ebbs and flows of life and the pursuit of happiness. Unlike my work on stage, I tap into a more serious and sensitive side to give life advice and simply offer words of encouragement, yet remind folks to never forget to laugh.

Every Tuesday, listen to Conversations with Unk, hosted by Lil Duval on the Black Effect Podcast Network, our hard radio app, or wherever you get your podcasts. Presented by AT&T, connecting changes everything. What kind of programs does this school have? How are the test scores?

How many kids to a classroom? Homes.com knows these are all things you ask when you're home shopping as a parent. That's why each listing on homes.com includes extensive reports on local schools, including photos, parent reviews, test scores, student-teacher ratio, school rankings, and more. The information is from multiple trusted sources and curated by homes.com's dedicated in-house research team.

It's also you can make the right decision for your family. Homes.com, we've done your homework. This is Lee Habib and this is Our American Stories, and we tell stories about everything here on this show. From the arts to sports and from business to history and everything in between, including your stories, send them to OurAmericanStories.com. Sue Thomas became the first deaf person to work as an undercover specialist, doing lip reading of suspects for an elite surveillance team at the FBI. In 1990, Thomas wrote her autobiography entitled Silent Night, which became the basis for the TV series Sue Thomas, F-B-I-E-Y-E.

The continuing story of her life is chronicled in Staying in the Race, where Thomas shares stories about living with multiple sclerosis. Here's Sue Thomas. Some of you might have remembered that TV show called Sue Thomas, FBI.

And as I travel around the country speaking, I find that I keep getting asked three most popular questions. Question number one, are you the real Sue Thomas? Question number two, how long did you work for the FBI? Only for three and a half years.

Just long enough to get a TV show out of it. And question number three, did you really run down the street catching the bad guys? Do I look like I ran down the street catching the bad guys?

It's been an awful lot of fun. You know, if you look back on my life, it has all the elements for Hollywood, the drama, the action, the intensity, the loss. And yet, when it came down to actually telling the real story of Sue Thomas, Hollywood wouldn't even touch him. I'm going to share the story that Hollywood wouldn't even touch. That journey started out very early in my life at the age of 18 months, when very suddenly in the evening, I went profoundly deaf.

There was never a cause known. I wasn't sick. I just had my hearing one moment, and the next moment, I was walking the path of silence. Years were spent with a speech therapist in front of a mirror with my hand on her throat feeling the vibes and making those same vibes. At the same time, I would be looking in the mirror, watching her form her lips that make the word, and then for me to try to form my lips the same way. After years of speech therapy came voice lessons. No, not for a professional singing, but only to get my voice to fluctuate, to go up and down and up and down.

And after years, the voice came dramatic reading, only for the articulation and enunciation of words. So many, many years has gone into this voice, and yet I know I still talk funny, and people will say, oh, no, you don't. But I do. Well, how do you know that? Well, I can be at the airport, a restaurant, a hotel, any place at any time, and somebody will always come up to me and say, where are you from? You really have an accent.

It's just a little bit different, and I'm aware of that. I went to public school. Teacher put me in the first row, so I'd be able to read her lips as best as I could. I really didn't understand too much, but I tried to follow what the class was doing. And I remember that day as far as watching the students stand by their desk, and I finally figured it out. They were introducing themselves to their classmates. It became my turn that day, and I remember getting up and standing beside my desk and very proudly looking out at my classmates and saying something like, ah! And with that, the entire class erupted in laughter. Those kids were laughing so hard that day, I turned around to try to figure why everybody was laughing, and when I couldn't figure it out, I just sat down. But I came to realize that every time I was to open my mouth to speak, the entire class would erupt in laughter, and I got to the point where I wouldn't open my mouth. For 12 years, I sat in the silence, and never once did I open my mouth in that school.

For the final moment of having my teacher come up to me one day at my desk, and she looked awful sad that day, and she reached down and took my hands in hers, and she let me out of the classroom. And that day, it seemed like with an awful long walk, and that was the day I entered another class. I entered what was known as the dummy class, and now all these kids had more ammunition to work with.

I just didn't talk funny. I was now the dummy. There was three things in my life as a child that saved me from total despair. One, my parents went to church on Sundays. And they tried to instill in me that there was a God that did not make any mistakes. And you're listening to the voice of Sue Thomas, and my goodness, what a childhood it must have been. I just didn't talk funny.

I was the dummy. And I know we can all conjure up what that must have been like for her, because many of us may have been those kids laughing at her, or at least hurting for her and not standing up for her. And then she hears about this God that doesn't make mistakes. When we come back, more of Sue Thomas' story, a unique and beautiful voice here on Our American Stories. Folks, if you love the great American stories we tell and love America like we do, we're asking you to become a part of the Our American Stories family. If you agree that America is a good and great country, please make a donation.

A monthly gift of $17.76 is fast becoming a favorite option for supporters. Go to our American stories.com now and go to the donate button and help us keep the great American stories coming. That's our American stories.com. There's a lot happening these days, but I have just the thing to get you up to speed on what matters without taking too much of your time. The Seven from the Washington Post is a podcast that gives you the seven most important and interesting stories. And we always try to save room for something fun. You get it all in about seven minutes or less. I'm Hannah Jewell. I'll get you caught up with the seven every weekday.

So follow the seven right now. This Father's Day, shop at the Home Depot to find the perfect gift to help Dad be everything he can be. Because your dad is more than just a dad. He's groundskeeper of the yard, the perfecter of the patio and the cleaner of the clippings. He's the weed fighting, hedge trimming, leaf blowing Lord of the lawn.

He sees the job and he gets it done. Because your dad is a doer. So show him you appreciate everything he does with the tools he needs to power up his landscaping game. This Father's Day, give him the convenience and gas like power of innovative and durable Milwaukee cordless outdoor tools from the Home Depot. Plus get up to $150 off select Milwaukee tools for everything Dad does everything he is and everything he can be. Find the perfect Father's Day gift at the Home Depot.

How doers get more done shop for Father's Day now in stores or online at homedepot.com. NFL plus premium is your ticket to the NFL off season. Catch all your favorite off season coverage and stream exclusive content from the NFL draft training camp free agency and more. Relive the biggest plays from the season with full and condensed game replays. Plus stay connected with 24 seven football news and coverage on NFL network.

Sign up today at plus.nfl.com terms and conditions apply. And we continue with our American stories and the story of Sue Thomas. They tried to tell me about his son named Jesus and that if I would hold on to his hand and allow him to lead me and guide me that there wouldn't be anything that I couldn't do or anything that I couldn't become. Secondly I have a son to get that I have a son. No I have no recollection of music. But I have a mother that loved music and she wanted to pass that love on to her only daughter whether she could hear or not and as a little kid she would place me on her lap and she sat in the rocking chair rocking back and forth singing all of her favorite songs with my head on her shoulder as she sang. I could feel the vibrations and if I really liked the song particularly well my hand would sort of creep up and lay gently on his throat so that I could get all the vibes that I possibly couldn't. It must have been around Christmas time because one of the first songs that my mom ever taught was Silent Night and I love that song. Now as a little kid it wasn't the words. The words had no meaning rather it was the rhythm and the flow of the bra for a tremendous piece and I can remember after a long lousy day of school going home on the school bus looking out the window with my nose all pressed up against the glass so nobody's seeing the tears flow down my cheek.

Way down in Dean I would start singing Silent Night and I'd be okay. The only thing I ever wanted as a kid was a friend. Let's face it who wants to be a friend to a dummy?

Who wants to be a friend to somebody that talks funny? And I never knew what the word friendship meant, at least not until I got to high school. By the time I went to high school I met up with those crowds that was totally disrespectful, outright rebellion, into alcohol, into drugs, into everything and it was my means of escape at least trying to escape the world of silence. God's hand was upon me for he brought in a teacher in my junior year that believed in me and began to work with me one on one. It was through her life I went to college and even though I got to college it took me eight years to leave the place. Eight years passed I thought the world couldn't wait to give me a job but I found out the world could wait forever. There wasn't one person that was willing to give me a job simply because I couldn't use the telephone or they thought that I would misunderstand what was being said and I went back to the same hearing and speech center that taught me to speak, pounded on their doors asking for a job. They felt sorry for me.

Why? They hired me even when they didn't have a job. I became like a gopher, a jack of all trades doing whatever they wanted me to do and I can remember some days taking paper clips out of one box, sticking those paper clips to another box and then putting them in the closet. I was only there for a few short months. You see it was a friend of the hearing and speech center who in turn had a friend that lived in Washington DC, who in turn had a friend that worked for the Department of State, who in turn had a friend that worked for the FBI. Are you following this?

So a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend from Washington DC to Youngstown, Ohio. I get wind that the FBI is looking for deaf people and if you don't think that I panicked I thought to myself, what did we do? It took them a long time to calm me down that day. Basically they said you didn't do anything. They just want to know if you want a job. Do I want a job? Somebody was finally going to hire me for who I was.

Scratch that. I'm going to Washington DC, that's awesome. But the more I realized it, the more I knew I was going to be with the FBI, it just doesn't get any better.

So off I go to Washington DC and the first week is like a dream come true. They took me around, they introduced me to all the special agents and after all the introductions was over, they took me downstairs to the firing range where all the agents practiced their target shooting. That was the very first mistake. The second mistake is when they handed me a Thompson.45 submachine gun. I shot their entire shooting that day without even trying. It was a long time before they let me go back downstairs and then I started my training to become what was known as the fingerprint examiner for the FBI.

Within the first five minutes, I realized they had made the greatest mistake of my life. Someday when you don't have anything else to do, take a look at any one of your fingers really, really close. All those lines are fingerprints. It was my job to count every single one of those lines on that finger.

Eight hours a day, five days a week and I can honestly tell you, if you've seen one fingerprint, you've seen them all. One day my supervisor comes running and she's all upset. She tells me I have to get to the front office right away. There's only two reasons a person goes to the front office of the FBI, either to be terminated from their job or to be interrogated by the FBI agents. I get to the front office, I walk in and they tell me to sit down.

That day the questions started and they went something like this. Ms. Thomas, we understand that you read lips to communicate and you do a very good job but there's only one thing we want to know, just one thing. Do you watch TV? Do I watch TV?

That's all you guys want to know? Is it a federal crime to watch TV? I confess, I watch TV. Well, is it difficult for you, Ms. Thomas? Do you get anything out of it? Yeah I do. I mean, no I don't.

I mean I don't know, do you know what I mean? You know, the camera's on the person and I can see their lips, I can read them. But so many times the camera's not on the person that I can't see anything so I don't know when anything's being said. And you're listening to Sue Thomas and what a voice. She owns it now, you can hear it, but as a young person, well every time she opened her mouth kids laughed so for 12 years, as she said, she sat on the sidelines.

And my goodness then the FBI, well they're looking for deaf people. And what a sense of humor, what a life story. When we come back more with Sue Thomas, her story here on Our American Story. There's a lot happening these days, but I have just the thing to get you up to speed on what matters without taking too much of your time. The Seven from The Washington Post is a podcast that gives you the seven most important and interesting stories and we always try to save room for something fun. You get it all in about seven minutes or less. I'm Hannah Jewell, I'll get you caught up with The Seven every weekday.

So follow The Seven right now. This is Father's Day, shop at the Home Depot to find the perfect gift to help dad be everything he can be. Because your dad is more than just a dad, he's groundskeeper of the yard, the perfecter of the patio and the cleaner of the clippings.

He's the weed fighting, hedge trimming, leaf blowing, lord of the lawn. He sees the job and he gets it done because your dad is a doer. So show him you appreciate everything he does with the tools he needs to power up his landscaping game. This Father's Day, give him the convenience and gas-like power of innovative and durable Milwaukee cordless outdoor tools from the Home Depot. Plus get up to $150 off select Milwaukee tools. For everything dad does, everything he is and everything he can be, find the perfect Father's Day gift at the Home Depot. How doers get more done.

Shop for Father's Day now in stores or online at homedepot.com. NFL Plus Premium is your ticket to the NFL off season. We're the first pick in the NFL draft. Catch all your favorite off season coverage and stream exclusive content from the NFL draft, training camp, free agency and more. Relive the biggest plays from the season with full and condensed game replays. He's in, touchdown. Plus stay connected with 24 seven football news and coverage on NFL network.

Sign up today at plus.nfl.com terms and conditions apply. And we continue with our American stories and the story of Sue Thomas by Sue Thomas. Let's continue. Well, how about movies Ms. Thomas, do you go to movies? Is it any better for you? Oh, yes, I go to movies and it's a lot better.

It really is. You know, it's the lips, they're a lot bigger. On and on went the questions and I came to realize that the FBI had a huge problem. They were working on a case in which they video filmed the suspect. But when the camera activated the sound mechanism found, they have all this film with the bad guys talking, they just couldn't hear it. They wanted to know if I was set and watch the film and write any words down that I could.

I said, sure, no problem. From that day on, I never went back to reading fingerprints. From that day on, I read lips for the FBI. And to sum up my job, I followed the bad guys around and I read their lips, then I went and told the good guys what the bad guys were saying. And they even paid me to do it too. And overnight, like the snap of a finger, I finally made it in the world of sound. Good job.

Good selling. Somewhat of a novelty in Washington, where I began to be invited to the congressional and senators party. And for three and a half years, I lived in the fast lane of Washington, D.C., celebrating my success. I'm 35 years of age, while I'm at the prime of the FBI. And for 35 years, I have hated every step that I took. When I was young, my parents tried to instill in me that God never made a mistake. And in my youth, I believed them and I held them. But supposedly with each passing year of getting older and supposedly wiser, I began to doubt that that by the time I'm with the FBI, I totally doubted God. And I wanted to confront him once and for all. I wanted him to confess that yes, indeed, he had made a mistake. So I resigned from the FBI to go to Columbia International Seminary, CIU, in South Carolina. Not to go there to become a preacher. And not to go there to become a missionary, but with only one objective, to confront God face to face, to ask him why he made a mistake. The mistake was minor.

It was major. I mean, after all, anybody that would know of the mistake would have consideration of why I had to do this. It wasn't enough that he created in me a heart that loves people. I love people. And that came by God's creation that he put within me. But it's compounded by the issue that even though he created that love and I want to be with people, he allowed the silence to overtake me, that it was physically impossible to be with people. That, my friends, is a mistake.

It's a whopper. You don't give somebody something and then remove it in a tangible way where they can't have it. Helen Keller said it best when she said blindness separates a person from things and objects. Deafness separates a person from people.

She's right. Oh yeah, I'm a good lip reader. In my prime, I could be in a high-rise building in New York City with a pair of field glasses looking across the street in another high-rise building and telling you word-for-word what was being said. I'm good, or I was. I'm so good I can even do two people.

And that's like watching Helen. Somebody will talk, they'll stop, they'll talk, they'll stop, they'll talk, they'll talk, they'll talk. I can get it. But you have a third person and a fourth person, I start deteriorating. I cannot function in a room and my heart wants it so desperately and so badly. I love to party. I love to be with people, but I can't.

I can't. I got to seminary. God was waiting. You see, he didn't just give me one or two friends in seminary that I could relate to. He had 25 friends waiting for me, 25. I can't be with three people, let alone 25, and yet every day we go to class together, we would share meals together, we would study, we would pray, we would sing, we were always together. And these people saw the outward shell of soup on us.

The party animal, happy-go-lucky, the line. Because what they didn't know is that when I left their midst and I went back to my apartment, I totally destroyed everything that I could get my hands on. The bitterness and resentment started during the first year of first grade.

That puts me at six years old. From the age of six to the age of 35, that baggage was growing with each passing moment that I was a broken person. I was a resentful person. I despised there wasn't a shred of happiness within.

And now I'm with 25 new friends. And what a story, folks, oh my goodness. With each passing year, as I got older, I began to doubt that God doesn't make mistakes. At 35, I wanted to confront God once and for all, and about one thing, that yes, he did make a mistake. My goodness, to hear her talk about her bitterness. The bitterness and resentment had started in the first year of first grade at the age of six. Right to the age of 35, that baggage was growing with each moment.

There wasn't a shred of happiness in me. When we come back, more of this remarkable confession, this beautiful confession, here on Our American Stories. Finding the right news podcast can feel like dating.

It seems promising until you start listening. When you hit play on Post Reports, you'll get fascinating conversations, and sometimes a little fun too. I'm Martine Powers.

And I'm Elahe Azadi. Martine and I are the hosts of Post Reports. The show comes out every weekday from The Washington Post.

You can follow and listen to Post Reports wherever you get your podcasts. It'll be a match, I promise. This Father's Day, shop at the Home Depot to find the perfect gift to help Dad be everything he can be. Because your dad is more than just a dad. He's groundskeeper of the yard, the perfector of the patio, and the cleaner of the clippings. He's the weed-fighting, hedge-trimming, leaf-blowing lord of the lawn.

He sees the job, and he gets it done. Because your dad is a doer. So show him you appreciate everything he does with the tools he needs to power up his landscaping game. At Father's Day, give him the convenience and gas-like power of innovative and durable Milwaukee cordless outdoor tools from the Home Depot. Plus, get up to $150 off select Milwaukee tools. For everything Dad does, everything he is, and everything he can be, find the perfect Father's Day gift at the Home Depot.

How doers get more done. Shop for Father's Day now in stores or online at homedepot.com. NFL Plus Premium is your ticket to the NFL off-season. Catch all your favorite off-season coverage and stream exclusive content from the NFL Draft, training camp, free agency, and more. Relive the biggest plays from the season with full and condensed game replays. Plus, stay connected with 24-7 football news and coverage on NFL Network.

Sign up today at plus.nfl.com. Terms and conditions apply. And we continue here with our American stories and with Sue Thomas' story. And now, here's the final part. So many times I cried out to God, please give me my hearing, please just let me hear it. And it was always the same answer, the great silence. So I turned from God, I more or less gave up on him. I went to the one friend in seminary and I told her a lie. I told her that I had a terminal disease, that I was dying, because in my warped mind I thought if she believed me, she would want to spend as much time with me one on one.

And that's exactly what happened. But when I didn't realize the split second that I told that lie, that it would last for over seven months, and I had no idea that the first person I told that lie to, that would have fanned out for those 25 people. And surely, I had no idea that that lie would totally ensue me and destroy me. Ten long months passed, and I was wasting away. And there came a time that I could not take it any longer, and I went to that same friend and I said, please call my advisor at school. Tell him that I need to see him as soon as possible.

Tell him to have another faculty member with him, it's urgent. And I met with those two men, tears streaming down my face. I confessed, I sinned. I knew that I would have to go to those 25 different people and to tell them the truth. And I was prepared to do that, I wanted to do it.

But what I didn't know is that I would have to stand before the entire academic committee of that school. The night before I was to meet that committee was the longest, darkest, quietest night of my life. The shame and the guilt was so unbearable that I got my suitcase out and I began to pack to run away, I couldn't face it. And while I'm packing, my Bible fell on the floor, and when I looked down, I sort of chuckled, and I shook my head because I could not believe the pages that were staring back to me. I put the Bible on the bed, and I went down on the floor, face down. And I cried out for God, for mercy, for forgiveness. But I told him that for 35 years, I went to church, I sat in the pew, I sang the hymn, I talked the talk and told people I was this Christian.

How dare I? The next morning, I stood before the entire academic committee, tears streaming down my face, and my speech was so garbled with the emotion. I knew they had a hard time understanding me. The one thing that I remember more than anything on that day of my confession with that school was one lone man sitting in a chair, his head was in his hands, and as he heard me speak, he shook his head back and forth, and as I watched him, the tears flowed down his face. That man was Dr. Robinson McCorkin, and the days before that meeting, the emotions ran so hard. What will I say to him? What can I say? And that day finally arrived, and wouldn't you know it, they sat me right next to him at a dinner table. He looked at me, and the first words that he spoke was, Sue, I'm so proud of you. I looked at him, and the tears began to flow, and I choked them, and I took my napkin and I placed them on the table, and I said, you have to excuse me. And I walked out, and I went outside, and I kept thinking, God, he doesn't remember. He can't remember. He said he was proud of me. So I regained my composure, and I went back, and I was able to finish the meal, and I thought, by the time I said, Dr. McCorkin, I need to see you as soon as possible, or you meet with me. He said, Josh, tomorrow morning. I looked at him, and I said, did you ever kick anybody out?

Did you ever spit on anybody? And he looked puzzled, and he looked at me, he said, I don't think so, but I'm not sure. And then there was the great silence, and he said, did we kick you out? No, sir, but you could have, and maybe you should have, but you didn't. Instead you taught me of the love and the forgiveness of Jesus Christ, and you just didn't stop with the love. You walked me through the healing process, and then you sent me. I don't know where I would have been had you kicked me out, and yet for God, it was like the snap of a finger, all he had to do was a TV show called St. Thomas FBI, here in the United States over 4 million people have watched it.

Today that show is being seen in 65 nations around the world, Germany, South Africa, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, 65 nations, and the people write to me thinking they're writing this celebrity, and I have the opportunity to share a celebrity note. God's greatest sinner, saved by grace, yes, that is the real story of St. Thomas FBI. God is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God. And does anyone doubt her?

No. What a thing, what a story, what a lie, what a lie to tell, but she was just hurting and that's why she told it. She was just looking for attention, and what a cry for help that was, lying about a terminal disease, and having to go before your peers and then an academic committee and well, face the pain, and she was gonna run away and that Bible fell out of the book, and she threw herself on the threshing floor, and she called out for forgiveness and grace, and she got both. And we don't shy away from these things, and this show is open to believers, non-believers, stories, all of them we want to hear, and my goodness this may be one of the most profoundly told.

Great Job as Always by Greg Hengler, a great and beautiful God story, Sue Thomas' story here on Our American Stories. NFL Plus Premium is your ticket to the NFL off season. We're the first pick in the NFL draft. Catch all your favorite off season coverage and stream exclusive content from the NFL draft, training camp, free agency, and more. Relive the biggest plays from the season with full and condensed game replays. He's in! Touchdown! Plus, stay connected with 24-7 football news and coverage on NFL Network.

Sign up today at plus.nfl.com. Terms and conditions apply. I'm Katja Adler, host of The Global Story. Over the last 25 years, I've covered conflicts in the Middle East, political and economic crises in Europe, drug cartels in Mexico. Now, I'm covering the stories behind the news all over the world in conversation with those who break it. Join me Monday to Friday to find out what's happening, why, and what it all means.

Follow The Global Story from the BBC wherever you listen to podcasts. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have supervision, enhanced hearing, extraordinary reflexes, to be, dare we say, superhuman? Well Roku's new Pro Series TV can't do any of that for you, but with a 4K screen, side-firing speakers and a blazing fast refresh rate, it'll sure feel like it. Elevate your entertainment using all your favorite apps like iHeart and play all your music, radio, and podcasts with the new Roku Pro Series. Your senses aren't better, your TV is.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-06-13 04:24:04 / 2024-06-13 04:38:21 / 14

Get The Truth Mobile App and Listen to your Favorite Station Anytime