There’s a question that’s been on everyone’s mind since the final season of the Hulu series ‘Atlanta’ wrapped up: Who is Thomas Ronald Washington? Is he a real-life former CEO of The Walt Disney Company, or simply a product of fiction?
The Story of Thomas Ronald Washington
Unveiled in the final Atlanta episode named ‘The Goof Who Sat By the Door,‘ Thomas Washington (Eric Berryman) comes across as the black CEO of the Walt Disney Studios. It’s an intriguing concept, sparking debates among viewers as to whether such a character was actually in the Disney company’s history.
The character is introduced in the fourth season, presented as a young black animator who is accidentally appointed as the CEO of the Walt Disney Company after the 1992 Los Angeles riots. Following the passing of the temporary CEO amidst the 1992 riots, a white man named Tom Washington was intended for the position. However, an error in names led to Thomas Washington filling the spot instead. Despite their dissatisfaction, the board of directors had to retain him as the CEO.
Washington goes on to address issues within the corporation and sets out to create ‘the blackest movie of all time.’ His personal life takes a downward spiral due to his obsession with this mission, eventually leading to his disappearance in 1995, with no trace found other than his car located at a lake.
What Was the Real Deal?
The narrative about Thomas Washington is indeed interesting. However, it’s important to clarify that there has never been a black CEO at the Disney Company. The character of Thomas, and the storyline around him, are entirely fictional.
This narrative has led to speculation among fans that the character may have been inspired by Floyd Norman, who holds the title of being one of Disney’s first black animators. Despite never holding a CEO position, Norman did have a career at Disney and continues to contribute as a creative at the age of 88.