The talk-show host turned repo man turned community activist is no stranger to the limelight. This time he's set his sights on Willie Herenton, and with the help of 10,000 signatures, hopes to unseat the mayor before his run for a fifth term. The Man: Thaddeus Matthews, 47 (born on April Fool's Day), is owner of Gotcha automobile repossession company, a 20-year talk-radio veteran, and a political activist with an interest in local elections, most recently as a campaign organizer for Memphis City Schools board member Stephanie Gatewood.
His Plan: Matthews has singled out elected officials before for inappropriate behavior and bad judgments. In his latest move, Matthews has begun a grassroots recall campaign of Mayor Willie Herenton. "I have taken a stance against the arrogance and the domineering nature of [Herenton]," he says. "On the radio I talk to people who live in the city, and there is a growing number of them who are tired of the [mayor's] antics."
His Platform: Matthews has taken Malcolm X's "by any means necessary" to another level in his quest for political accountability. With the recall campaign, the media-savvy reformer is outlining his intentions to radio, television, and newspaper outlets. Call-in lines are flooded when he makes guest appearances on radio shows, reporters abound at his impromptu press conferences, and the list of his informants gets longer every day.
While no signatures have been collected yet for the recall, Matthews says he has put the mayor on notice that his days are numbered. To help with his project, Matthews has enlisted the help of fellow activist John Lunt, who also gathered thousands of signatures in attempts to put a city charter commission resolution on Memphis ballots.
His Purpose: Before the recall campaign, Matthews was facing popularity extinction. His radio show on a Flinn Broadcasting station had been replaced by elevator music. He was, and still is, in litigation with the owners of his last station for curtailing his contract in November. Matthews blames each station conflict on his political stance against "business as usual."
About seven months ago, Matthews says an executive-level city government employee gave him city charter information about recalling the mayor. "That person just told me to read it and one day I would need it. Well, that day has come," he says.
His Path: Although off the air, Matthews still tracks Memphis politics. He claims to know the personal relationships of politicians and can produce financial documents on most transactions involving city funds. No matter how grandiose, his stories usually pan out.
It's not clear if he will get enough signatures for a recall, but he's gotten a lot of attention doing it.