Growing up on a small, diversified family farm in Conecuh County, Wayne Thames became accustomed to the responsibilities and rewards of agricultural work early on. When his father took a job off the farm, Thames, then a teenager, was placed in charge of the farm. He was active in FFA throughout high school and in 1955 was named the Future Farmer of the Year, foreshadowing a successful career that has spanned multiple agricultural sectors and more than six decades.
After earning a degree in agribusiness from Alabama Polytechnic Institute in 1960, Thames worked for the Alabama Farmers Cooperative in Frisco City and then for Peterman Agricultural Company in Monroe County. At Peterman, he worked as manager of the fertilizer, seed and chemical department before being named vice president. He served in that role for 27 years.
Early on in his agribusiness career, Thames started his own cattle operation. He purchased 96 cows in 1965 and, two decades later, had grown the herd to 600-plus brood cows, making it one of the area’s largest herds. His present operation includes 1,200 acres of pasture and timber and 500 adult cows and brood heifers. The farm is located near the Monroe County–Conecuh County line.
Through the years, Thames held numerous leadership positions with agricultural organizations. In addition to serving as president of the Monroe County Cattlemen’s Association, he was president of the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association and a member of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Promotion and Research Board. In 2006, he was named to the Alabama Livestock Hall of Fame. He is a past president of the Alabama Seedsmen’s Association and past vice chairman of the Alabama Agricultural Development Authority and is on the Conecuh County Farmers Federation Board of Directors. He also served terms on the boards of Peoples Exchange Bank of Monroe County, Monroe County Hospital and Monroe Academy.
Thames married Katherine Aaron in 1959, and they had four children before cancer claimed her life in 1974. He later married Elizabeth Nettles, and they had one child. He and his present wife, Mary, have been married four years.