‘Survivor’ champion named COTR grand marshal

Published 10:11 pm Tuesday, October 6, 2009

[Editor’s note: The article published in the Oct. 7 issue of The Demopolis Times incorrectly identifies the grand marshal as “James Taylor.” The name is correctly given here.]

DEMOPOLIS — James Thomas Jr. — the winner of last spring’s “Survivor: Tocantins” reality TV show on CBS — has been tentatively announced as the grand marshal of this year’s Christmas on the River children’s day parade.

Christmas on the River festival officials have not yet received the contract back from Thomas, who was out of the country last month. However, they are confident that they will receive the official contract from him soon.

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Thomas is a 25-year-old native of Samson in southeastern Alabama. He was the sixth person to win the $1 million prize on “Survivor” for not receiving any votes against him at Tribal Council throughout the season, and was the second person to win the $1 million prize for winning by unanimous vote at the end of the season. He also earned $100,000 for winning the Fan Vote prize, claiming a “perfect game.” His championship was announced on May 17.

Thomas is a cattle rancher now living in Mobile. He is a 2007 graduate of Troy University.

“My husband and I are both big fans of ‘Survivor,’” said Donna Bishop, who contacted Thomas about being this year’s grand marshal. “He’s from Alabama, so we kept saying that he would be perfect for our grand marshal. Finally, I just decided that I had to do it. I contacted (COTR chair) Jennifer Roemen and asked her if she had a grand marshal and if I could get in touch with him, and she said, ‘Yes.’”

Bishop then made phone calls through Montgomery and Dothan — where Thomas had previously taken part in other community events — and was able to contact Thomas.

“He seemed very excited about coming,” she said. “He said that he had talked to some people where he worked about Christmas on the River, and they spoke very highly about it. So, he decided it was something he would like to do.”

Thomas’s recent success on the popular series will help bring people to the Christmas on the River festival.

“We’re excited because ‘Survivor’ is a very popular show,” said Roemen. “Donna and her husband, Allen, are working on putting together a VIP breakfast on that Saturday, Dec. 5, where people can meet with Mr. Thomas. We will have more information about that at a later date.”