Born April 6, 1892, in Woodington, Ohio, Lowell Jackson Thomas grew up in the rough mining camps of the Cripple Creek District in Colorado, where his father was the town doctor. His father encouraged Lowell’s public speaking, and tutored him on elocution. At age 17 and already entranced with journalism, he interviewed William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow, the first and second of the thousands of distinguished people whose words he would record. Thomas sailed through high school and earned his bachelor’s degree at Valparaiso in two years. By the age of 23, Lowell Thomas had earned five university degrees, worked as an editor or reporter on six major newspapers, filmed adventures in Alaska, written nationally syndicated columns on his travels, and secured a position teaching at Princeton in the speech department he helped create.
In Chicago in 1914, he had scored his first great scoop as a reporter for the Chicago Evening Journal: the exposure of the con man Carlton Hudson Betts, who had been stealing millions from the city of Chicago. This story earned him the gratitude of some of the leading businessmen of Chicago.