Tom Towles

Birth Name: Thomas E. Towles III

Date of Birth: March 20, 1944

Place of Birth: Chicago, Illinois, U.S.

Date of Death: April 2, 2015

Place of Death: Pinellas, Florida, U.S.

Ethnicity: African-American, as well as 1/16th Scottish

Tom Towles was an American actor. He is known for his roles in the films Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986), Night of the Living Dead (1990), and House of 1000 Corpses (2003), among many others. He was a U.S. Marine.

He was the son of Katheryn and Thomas Towles. While he was not publicly known as a black man during his lifetime, his parents and all of his grandparents were black. One of his maternal great-great-grandfathers was a Scottish immigrant.

Tom usually played implicitly white characters. In Henry, he played a real life, white, serial killer, somewhat fictionalized for the film. In Night of the Living Dead, his character, on first reading, is implied to be a white man who is at least somewhat racist towards Tony Todd’s character.

His father was born in Texarkana, Arkansas. His aunts, his father’s sisters, were Lois Towles, a prominent concert pianist, and Dorothea Church, who was the first successful black fashion model in Paris.

Tom’s paternal grandfather was Thomas Elsworth/Ellsworth “Tom” Towles (the son of Golden Towles and Lucy Bradford). Tom’s grandfather Thomas was born in Alabama. Lucy was the daughter of a Scottish father and black American mother.

Tom’s paternal grandmother was named Arabella/Anabella Clark (the daughter of Cassabana Clark and Mary). Arabella was born in Arkansas.

Tom’s maternal grandfather was Richard James Sanderson (the son of Moses Sanderson and Katie Brown). Richard was born in Tennessee. Moses was the son of Richard Sanderson and Esther Lockridge.

Tom’s maternal grandmother was named Ida May Greene/Green (the daughter of Scott/Scot Green). Ida was born in Tennessee.


Marriage record of Tom’s parents –

Tom’s father on the 1910 U.S. Census –
Tom’s father on the 1920 U.S. Census –

Death records of Tom’s father –

Obituary record of Tom’s father –

Biography of Tom’s aunt (father’s sister), Lois Towles –

Obituary of Tom’s aunt (father’s sister), Lois Towles –

Marriage records of Tom’s paternal grandparents, Thomas Elsworth/Ellsworth “Tom” Towles and Arabella/Anabella Clark –

Tom’s paternal grandparents, Thomas Elsworth/Ellsworth “Tom” Towles and Anabella/Arabella Clark, on the 1930 U.S. Census –

Tom’s paternal grandfather, Thomas Elsworth/Ellsworth “Tom” Towles, on the 1880 U.S. Census –

Death record of Tom’s paternal grandfather, Thomas Elsworth/Ellsworth “Tom” Towles –

Tom’s paternal great-grandparents, Golden Towles and Lucy Bradford, on the 1900 U.S. Census –

Tom’s paternal grandmother, Arabella/Anabella (Clark) Towles, on the 1940 U.S. Census –

Death record of Tom’s paternal grandmother, Arabella/Anabella (Clark) Towles –

Birth record of Tom’s mother –

Tom’s mother on the 1920 U.S. Census –
Tom’s mother on the 1930 U.S. Census –

Death record of Tom’s mother –

Marriage record of Tom’s maternal grandparents, Richard James Sanderson and Ida May Greene/Green –

Tom’s maternal grandmother, Ida May Greene/Green, on the 1900 U.S. Census –

Death record of Tom’s maternal grandmother, Ida May (Greene/Green) Sanderson –

16 Responses

  1. Mr. Postman says:

    On the 1880 Ccenus, Tom’s paternal great-grandmother, Lucy, gives her father’s birthplace as Scotland:

    It is likely he was a slaveowner of Scottish descent.

  2. andrew says:

    It appears there is some controversy about his year of birth.

  3. jackson9 says:

    Thomas Ellsworth Towles (paternal grandfather) was the son of Golden Towles (1826-1908) Georgia and Lucy Bradford (1830-1908) South Carolina. Anabella Clark was the daughter of Cassabana Clark and Mary Clark. Both of Tom Towles paternal grandfathers parents were listed as black.

  4. follers says:

    I found this exchange in Night of the Living Dead (1990) pretty interesting. As in the original film, the lead characters hide out in a rural house.

    But, in this version, Tony Todd’s character says to Towles, “Who are you? You don’t look like you’re neighbors” (of the white rural family that owned the house).

    Towles replies to Todd, “you don’t exactly look like you’re neighbors either.”

    Looking at Towles and Todd in the movie, I can definitely see a light-skinned, “passing,” black man / dark-skinned black man dichotomy, as opposed to the white / black of the original film. If you know watching it that Towles was black, it’s so clear in so many scenes.×2048+0+0/resize/840×1267!/quality/90/?

    • andrew says:

      Oh please…”light skinned” what? The man had a totally European phototype. The African influence is visible only in the nose, but you can still get Europeans with such features.

  5. andrew says:

    Good stuff, Follers. You did it again!

    “African-American”…uhhmm. And black here, black there, black man and blah blah blah. It seems you never get enough of it.

    He was basically a white man BUT with some African-American ancestry (even visible).

    So who is the racist one here??

    • madman says:

      What do you object to? Wasn’t her grandparents black as the censuses say? Do you know something they don’t?

      • andrew says:

        No, you know if Census says something, that is. So Charles Bronson’s “Tatar” family was listed as White and end of story.

        • madman says:

          Do you really think that’s a true equivalence to what I’ve said before? To think that someone has their race wrongly listed isn’t just a guess. Have you, for example, found any of his ancestors listed as white when they were unmarried?

          And if Bronson had Tatar ancestors, they would’ve definitely been listed as white and nothing else. I don’t see how that point is relevant to this.

          • andrew says:

            I did not check Towles’ ancestors yet. His paternal aunts definitely were mulattoes (the “black” model was mistaken for Tahitian in Paris), I dunno about his mother’s side.

            For Bronson, I alwais wondered how Tatars were listed on U.S. Census back then.

          • madman says:

            Well… If you by mulattos mean having one black and one white parents, then no, they probably weren’t. But if you just mean that they had a great degree of white ancestry, that’s certainly possible. That doesn’t make them any less African-American though. I think you should spend more time researching ancestors instead of asserting things you can’t possibly know for certain.

            Glen Powell likely has some Tatar ancestry, and his ancestors were all listed as white.

          • andrew says:

            If Neiltennant was around, he would have said Powell was part Arab.

          • jackson9 says:

            Neil Tennant would want an East Asian country added as well.

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