Little Rock Nine member Jefferson Thomas dies aged 67

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

File:101st Airborne at Little Rock Central High.jpg
Little Rock Nine members being escorted by troops

Jefferson Thomas, one of the members of the Little Rock Nine, a group of African-American students who were enrolled in Little Rock Central High School in 1957, has died at the age of 67. His death was confirmed by fellow Little Rock Nine member's Carlotta Walls LaNier and Minnijean Brown. The cause of death was announced as pancreatic cancer.

As a student at Dunbar Junior High School, Thomas volunteered to integrate into all-white Little Rock Central High School. Along with eight other African-American students Thomas attempted to enter the high school on September 4, 1957 but they were stopped by the National Guard. It would not be until September 23 the students would enter the school for the first time.

After leaving high school Thomas joined the U.S Army and served in Vietnam as a staff sergeant. When he returned to the United States he worked in the family business and later for the Department of Defense.

Little Rock Nine member Melba Beals commented on Thomas's death. She said "No matter what we were talking about or no matter how awful the day had been, he could always make a funny joke about it," she said, recalling their days at Central. "We are in deep pain thinking of him. We are all a family in a way. This is a great loss."