In Memory of John Thomas





Share This Memorial

John Thomas

On December 6, 1926, the world was blessed by the birth of John A. Thomas in the City of Newark, New Jersey. On September 1, 2020, while at home surrounded by his family the life of John A. Thomas ended peacefully. John attended public school elementary and high school in New Jersey prior to entering the United States Army, where he proudly served in the South Pacific Theater of Operations. When he was honorably discharged in 1946, after his return to New Jersey, he enrolled in Rutgers University, earning a Bachelor's degree in Education in 1950. He was hired by the Newark Board of Education after successfully passing the Newark Teacher's Examination, becoming the Seventh African-American Teacher and the first Black certified in the area of History. Passing the exam is significant because very few African-Americans were able to get through the Oral portion of the exam where 7 principals in your area of certification questioned you for at least an hour. In 1952, John Arthur Thomas married the love of his life, Elizabeth Lee Nowlin. In 2013, after 61 years of marriage the royal couple proved only death could separate John, the King from Elizabeth his queen. Their union was blessed by the birth of two daughters, Patricia and Pamela. John later attended Columbia University Graduate School, and earned a Master of Education from Rutgers University. He also became the first African American coach in the Newark School District for track and field (Cross Country, Indoor and Outdoor). John was honored to serve as the Chairman of the African American History Curriculum and as Title One Coordinator while serving within the Newark School System. John Thomas' leadership in the area of Education was not limited to the Newark School District. He later served as the Director of the Camden New Jersey Educational Development Program, Senior Manager for the Education Division of RCA Service Company, Regional Director of Leadership Training for the United States Civil Service Commission (Region 2 – NY, NJ, Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands), Professor at Rutgers University School of Education, and as an Adjunct Professor of African American Studies at Rutgers University - New Brunswick Campus. Although highlights of the life and legacy of John Arthur Thomas are lifted; his professional and community achievements are too numerous to capture the totality of his service and gifts. John was a longtime member of the Democratic Committee of Essex County. He served as the Statewide Deputy Director of Constituent Services and Deputy Campaign Manager for the United State Senator Frank Lautenberg Left to cherish the memory of his life are his beloved daughters, Patricia Thomas Wilson, Esq., and Pamela Thomas Fields (Durwood C. Pinkett). John counted his grandchildren as a blessing to his life; and passes on a legacy of service to his triplet granddaughters, Sarah, Patricia, and Victoria; and to his two grandsons, Jacques and Giovanni; and two goddaughters Angel Hicks and Maria Johnson. John Arthur Thomas' life, service, and contributions will be remembered by many who benefited from his efforts. *** ADDITIONAL HIGHLIGHTS OF THE LIFE OF JOHN ARTHUR THOMAS John's achievements are so numerous, it is difficult to condense the essence of his vast body of work: He was a genius level Historian and his uncanny intelligence lead him to complete the groundwork which provided his people with a vehicle to recognize their importance in the creation of the United States of America. After a wonderfully taught history lesson at his beloved Central High in 1966, the Crispus Attucks Parade concept was conceived. The Parade, which was founded by John A. Thomas still exists today as the African American Heritage Parade and is held in the City of Newark annually. The Urban League Years of John's career was highlighted by his service as Board Member and Chairman Emeritus of the Urban League of Hudson County, Inc. Jersey City NJ, Regional Parliamentarian and Regional Nominating Committee Chairperson of the Eastern Regional Assembly, Secretary of the National Council of board Chairpersons of the National Urban League, Inc. and Chairman of the Advisory Board of the National Council of Board Chairpersons. John's involvement in the community was recognized as evidenced by the many awards and accolades he received over the years. In 2016, he received the Stockton University "Greatest Generation Award"; in 1999 John was the Grand Marshal of the statewide African American Heritage Parade; in 2000 he was inducted into the Newark Athletic Hall of Fame; he served as the President of NAHF. John was also selected to serve as a Commissioner for the Governor's Commission on the Study of the Parole System, from 1976 to 1983. He was the vice chairman of the Newark Bicentennial Commission. John was a Rutgers class of 1950 Reunion Executive Committee Member. In 2000 he was inducted into the Rutgers Old Guard. In 2001 he received a Living Legend Award from Metropolitan Baptist Church in Newark NJ; and in 2018 he received a Humanitarian Award from the Thomas Giblin Association and was recognized as an Atlantic City Hometown Hero. John Arthur Thomas was present with the Rev. Dr. Martin L. King, in Selma Alabama at the "Famous Trek" and at the March On Washington, DC. Funeral services celebrating the life and achievements of John Artur Thomas will be Noon, Saturday, September 12, 2020, in the Richard Squires Pavilion of Atlantic County Veterans Cemetery, 189 Route 50, Estell Manor, NJ. Arrangements entrusted to Greenidge Funeral Homes, Atlantic City, where condolences may be left at To live stream this funeral