What life experiences shaped the late Thomas Bearden’s larger-than-life persistence and courage? The earliest influence was “hard times.” For the rest of his life, no matter how heavy the ridicule and the “perpetual motion crackpot” name-calling he had to endure, and how exhausting the effort to change entrenched ideas, it couldn’t be more difficult than his early struggles to survive depression-era poverty. The term “dirt poor” was created because starving people would eat clay or other dirt to stop the hurting in empty stomachs.
His family homesteading near what is now Cheniere, Louisiana, Tom’s father at age twelve landed a job driving a wagon pulled by draft horses or mules. At age 23 Tom’s father became foreman over the logging team. He met, fell in love with and married Tom’s mother. They had three sons, Tom the youngest.
Shortly after Tom’s second birthday, his parents drove to town in a rickety Model-T car and were returning on a dark night on winding dirt roads. A quarter-mile from home, the car lights shorted out and the car slid off the road. As it flipped over, the door flew open and the car came down and crushed the young mother. Tom’s father lifted the car off, picked her body up, and ran home screaming and crying. Two-year old Tom woke up to hear the pandemonium as his father burst in the door into lamplight with Mother in his arms. “I went into profound shock without anyone knowing it, and afterwards was haunted by just recalling seeing red blood and horror as a toddler,” he told me.
Years later, Tom Bearden found a way to come to terms with that trauma and loss of his mother. We’ll get to that.
After Tom’s father remarried, work in the timber business still took him away. As the smallest son, Tom bore the brunt of stepmother cruelty. “When I was almost four, my oldest brother James at ten years old took down the deer gun from the wall… and made her pull me back out of the well where she had lowered me down into the water to drown me.”
His father took the boys back to their grandmother and his sister Lou Audrey, then sent money when he could. Young Tom sawed wood, gardened and raised chickens and a hog. When his brothers went back to their father and stepmother in Mississippi, Tom alone gathered food for Grandmother and Auntie. He roamed the swamps nearby, fishing or shooting squirrels for food.
On one lake, alligators raised their young. The fishing was best there, so Tom fished those dangerous waters at age twelve. Another hazard was escaped imported boars who interbred with the smaller native wild pigs; you could meet a 500-pound wild boar in the woods. Poisonous snakes slithered around the homestead — copperhead moccasins, cotton-mouth moccasins and a few rattlers. Tom had to kill countless chicken snakes to protect the family’s eggs and small chicks.
He also learned how energy supplies affect basic needs. With an axe and a bucksaw he cut wood for the family’s fireplace, heater and wood-burning kitchen stove. There was no running water, only a well. They had no electricity and lit the home with kerosene lamps.
I can see how harsh circumstances produced the “sheer grit” needed for his mission. On the other hand, his grandmother and aunt treated the boys tenderly despite the poverty, so I assume that’s what nurtured his own kind heart. The women taught him some reading and writing before he entered Cheniere’s one-room elementary school; there he read everything available.
Meanwhile his father’s second marriage ended in divorce, and his father left it with only a truck for hauling pulpwood. Tom continued cleaning yards and planting gardens for the few employed neighbors.
Tom’s life took another turn when he bought his first guitar for $2.50. In high school, he and two friends formed a trio, the Rhythm Harmoneers (he’s the tall one in the photo) and were hired by groups such as the Kiwanis Club for special events.
Although resourceful, teenage Tom Bearden never expected to be able to afford college, so in his last two years in high school he earned a certificate as aircraft engine mechanic. Unexpectedly, in his senior year he won a four-year Pepsi Cola college scholarship. Now he could stay with Grandmother, ride buses to a junior college for at least two years and still help the family.
The Rhythm Harmoneers continued, playing on the Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport, famed in country music and broadcast worldwide in its heyday. Tom also played and sang with other bands in night clubs and honkytonks — for desperately-needed money.
He got a break when the Junior College he’d attended changed to a four year college. Again he could help the family and continue his schooling. He joined ROTC, so when he graduated in 1953 he received a commission as Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army.
His call to active military duty was postponed a year. He had married, so he found a day job at a steel company while he and his band played at night. Bearden also played rhythm guitar on record sessions for country music’s big names. The stars recorded some of Bearden’s tunes. On his own he later had a recording contract and a few records.
While on the Louisiana Hayride in the early 1950s, he finally expressed his deep feelings about his mother and healed some of the trauma by writing the recitation “Mother Went A’Walkin’”, which Jim Reeves recorded. In it Bearden transformed his grandmother into a kindly grandfather consoling the grieving two-year-old. It reconciled why his mother had gone away.
We’ll fast-forward the story of Tom Bearden’s life so far, racing past the Army career which immersed him in fields such as computers, guided missiles, classified technical information and Russian superweapons; his advanced education in nuclear engineering at Georgia Tech; his years as an aerospace engineer; his books…
After learning intelligence-collection and analysis methods in the military, he later applied them to investigating free-energy-from-the-vacuum systems.
As I look at his life story, I wonder — were the ‘gators, boars and snakes a preparation for hazards faced as an adult and surviving attempts on his life?
Bearden rarely talks about those, but did describe one incident when quick thinking and fast action saved him and his friend from a directed-energy attack in an airport. If they had not immediately escaped through an emergency exit door, Bearden figures, the weapon he glimpsed under a stranger’s suit jacket and the resulting disruptive beam they bodily experienced would have induced heart attacks within seconds.
He survived that experience, but unfortunately the product of weapons research of another type attacked him so stealthily that he couldn’t escape damage. When he was stationed in Canada while in the military he was exposed to a mycoplasma, modified for biological warfare, that eventually hardened his hemoglobin and reduced his ability to take in oxygen.
Mycoplasma resurgence caused him to have a heart attack in 2001. His family doctor then tested for mycoplasma and prescribed antibiotics. The mycoplasma had already damaged Bearden’s throat, so he can’t sing as he used to, but can still enjoy listening to classic country and western songs. “One has to accept one’s limitations and go on anyway, as best one can,” he said cheerfully.
Tom Bearden still read physics and science journals but his main concern was caring for his beloved wife Doris who, after her operations, stroke and heart failures is the more seriously disabled. He considers himself lucky that she is recovering. I imagine there’ll be a private birthday party in their home (note: I wrote this for Tom’s 80th birthday in 2010 when Doris too was still alive) with Doris and perhaps long-time friends such as Kenneth D. Moore who is also a retired Army Lt. Colonel and one of five co-inventors of the Motionless Electromagnetic Generator. Moore said that it will generate usable power without any moving parts, when fully developed and tested.
“With the MEG and other devices currently under development by other inventors and with Tom’s detailed explanations of how and why such systems can succeed,” Moore said, “we feel certain that a viable solution to the energy crisis is at hand!”
I hope Tom Bearden’s and friends’ dream of clean power-for-the-people will manifest, even if he didn’t live to see that outcome.