Thomas R. Phelps. Photo provided

Contributed by the Family

Thomas Rudolph Phelps was born on June 2, 1939, to the parents of Woodrow and Mary Phelps.  He graduated from Robert A. Taft High School in 1959.  He was awarded a Scholastic Scholarship Competitive Award to The Art Academy of Cincinnati, Ohio.  Due to economic challenges in his family, he had to delay attending for a year.  When he was able to attend, he could apply himself only part time.  Later, he was trained as a cement mason and used those skills to help build some of the skyscraper office buildings in Downtown Cincinnati.  He later joined the United States Postal Service and worked as a mail carrier until he retired in 2004.

Thomas was baptized in Jesus name and filled with the Holy Spirit on July 11, 1957.  He served as Sunday School Superintendent at Zion Temple First Pentecostal Church for some time.

Thomas met Sally in the West End, during their time at Taft High School. Thomas and Sally were married by their Pastor, Elder Jasper Phillips.  Following this, they went on to have three children, Bishop Darrin Phelps (Pastor Annette), Evette Render (Derrick), and Lance Phelps (Veronica).  He also had 13 grandchildren: Aliyah, Justin, Lance, Selena, Joshua, Natalie, China, Derek Jr., Jaden and others. 

A granddaughter Melanie was very special to him, and a great-granddaughter Ravynn.  Both Melanie (who called him Daya) and Ravynn, (who called him Gee), spent many fun, loving, caring and sacrificial hours with him.  He loved and appreciated Ravynn’s love and interest in his art, so much, that he told family members  to make sure that she gets two very special pieces of art that hung on his wall in his den.

Thomas Phelps was such a gifted artist, that he (as other artists would say) “Is in the Books.”.

His profile and accomplishments can be found in the “ENCYCLOPEDIA OF AFRICAN AMERICAN ARTIST, ARTIST OF THE AMERICAN MOSAIC, V3 NEOANCESTRALISM” – Jimi Jones and SOUL STIRRERS – Black Art and the Neo-Ancestral Impulse – H. Ike Okafor-Newsum (Horus Newsome), as well as, numerous news articles.

The Artwork of Thomas R. Phelps was exhibited locally at the Cincinnati Arts Consortium, The Contemporary Arts Center, Closson’s Art Gallery, The Aronoff Center for the Arts, The Weston Art Gallery,  University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati State College, The Mockbee, Cincinnati Art Museum, Harriet Beecher Stowe House, The Public Library of Cincinnati, Cincinnati Bell, Proctor and Gamble, and many other places of note. 

His art also was exhibited at The Fitton Center for Creative Arts, Hamilton, Ohio, Northern Kentucky University, S.O.S Art, Family Circles, The National African American Museum and Cultural Center, Wilberforce, Ohio, The Southern Ohio Museum, Portsmouth, Ohio, Shot Tower Gallery and The Black Cultural Center at Ohio State University, Columbus Ohio, The Kroger Building, Fifth Third Bank, Thomas More College, The Dayton Arts and Cultural Center, and other Fortune 500 companies.

Mr. Phelps, Jimi Jones and Ken Leslie formed a group called the Neo-Ancestralist.  These three outstanding artists set the Tri-State area and other regions in the country on fire, with their powerful mixed-media artwork. His children – Sally, Darrin and Annette – were always excited to be there when they displayed their work locally.  It was certainly not uncommon for their work to be written about in books, magazines and newspapers.

Mr. Phelps was interesting in many ways. For example:

      •     He would often charge more money than what people were willing to pay in order to keep his artwork, that he was commissioned to sell.

      •     He would often go into local neighborhoods meeting the unfamiliar residents, taking pictures of them and sitting in yards, while discussing things of interest to them.

      •     He would also take his son Darrin to places around town, including Downtown to an Exclusive Art Dealership (Trivets – owned by Walt), to purchase museum quality African art, then later, go to the owners home and enjoy fellowship and great conversation.

      •     He would take Darrin, to the old world mansions in East Walnut Hills, Mt. Auburn, Hyde Park and Colombia-Tusculum to meet their owners, as well as other entrepreneurs, executives and community leaders.

      •     On one occasion, Darrin had the pleasure of entering into the mansion owned by Mr. Goodyear, the rubber tire mogul, which overlooks the Ohio River.

      •     Thomas also took Darrin, Annette and Sally (together, The Fab 4) to exotic dinner parties with these amazing people, in their estates, and became friends with their families. 

      •     Through Thomas, Darrin had other father figures, like Bill Taylor and other great artist of his generation, sowed into his life.

      •     Thomas was a person who put his Creative Spirit into everything he did. He was gifted at interior and exterior design. He enjoyed traditional European styles, but his favorite furniture was of the Early American Period.    

      •     Darrin assisted him as he designed, created and build the magnificent outdoor gardens that graced their homes. He and Darrin would go around the city gathering stones, metal and wood to help create outdoor landscapes, including at Darrin’s and Annette’s homes and places of worship.

      •     Sally, Darrin and Annette, were always at his art shows and exhibits interacting with interesting people. Mary Phelps, Thomas’ Mother, was also with them, showing her love and support, on many occasions.

      •     Thomas was a person who had a tremendous sense of humor.  With him they often danced and sang, Country, Blues and Gospel songs.

      •     His favorite sport was professional boxing.  He would stay up for hours with Darrin … watching the fights and doing his brand of commentary.

      •     Thomas was an intellectual and spiritual leader of sorts.  He would often engage in philosophical discussions about life and nature, with many people. 

      •     He taught his family and many in the community, the value of nutrition and exercise.

      •     He would often tell Darrin and Annette to never forget their roots. He would tell them to always remember Africa, the poor and disadvantaged in this nation and abroad. 

      •     This inspired Bishop Darrin and Pastor Annette to help set up a school in Uganda for disadvantaged children, engage in community building and development in Ghana, perform ministerial work in South Africa, and establish a market for local vendors from their campus located in Fairfield Ohio. 

      •     Thomas and Sally were married for 62 years, which has inspired Darrin and Annette to remain faithfully married for 31 years and Evette and Derrick for over 30 years.

      •     With his love for God, family and humanity, which helped to make him a powerful and inspirational figure, Thomas R. Phelps without question, made the world that we reside in, a much better place. 

      •     He was a great Bible reading, Bible studying, God fearing man, who will be greatly missed, but never forgotten.

Mr. Phelps leaves behind Sally Phelps, his faithful wife of 62 years; his children, Bishop Darrin Phelps (Pastor Annette), Evette Render (Derrick), Lance Phelps (Veronica); his special granddaughter Melanie and great granddaughter Ravynn Evans; a host of grand-children, and great-grandchildren; colleagues, extended family and friends.

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1 Comment

  1. My Uncle Thomas was an Amazzzzzzzing Man and I always loved Him…R I.Power ( Cousin/ Uncle), You are missed. Love U Always and will forever cherish the memories of your smile, laugh and hugs♥️♥️💖💖🙏🏽

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