Great Debater Loses to Hurricane Harvey


Around Houston, 98-year-old Dr. Thomas F. Freeman is known as the international award-winning coach of the Texas Southern University debate team. He has spent 69 years teaching his students never to underestimate their opponent—a mistake he made during Hurricane Harvey.

“I didn’t take Hurricane Harvey seriously.” He said. ” I was home relaxing and looking at TV.”

Dr. and Mrs. Freeman were unaware of the amount of water that was surrounding their South Macgregor home, until a sheriff came knocking at their door, demanding the family to evacuate. The home owned by the legendary educator for 26 years was destroyed. The Freeman family was rescued by boat and taken safely to the home of a family friend.

Dr. Freeman’s granddaughter posted photos of the damages on her Facebook page. Floods of volunteers began to pour into the home of the man who has given so much to so many. Volunteers included members of Jack and Jill of America Houston chapter, Boy Scouts of America Troop 212, freshman students from Lanier Hall West and the Texas Southern University debate team.

Listen to Dr. Thomas Freeman's story

by Antrèchelle Dorsey | Next Generation Radio

Freeman says the volunteers “did the best they could to clean up the mess. For indeed it was a mess.”

The pages of his beloved books in his personal library were soaked and lifeless, the dishes in the kitchen were broken and tarnished and the living room furniture was almost unrecognizable.

Although he lost the battle with Hurricane Harvey, Freeman never lost sight of his faith in people. The historic Third Ward community pulled together without hesitation to serve a man who has served so many.

Five months later, life after Harvey has changed his address, but not the rhythm of his life.

Every day between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. you can still find him safely tucked in his office located on the TSU campus, training his great debaters for their next competition.

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