On Sunday, Jefferson Thomas, the man who opened the way to school desegregation, succumbed to death due to pancreatic cancer at an extended-care living facility in Columbus, Ohio. Thomas was 67 years old.
Carlotta Walls LaNier told about him. She had also enrolled at Central High School in 1957 and is the President of the Little Rock Nine Foundation.
Though Jefferson Thomas used to play basketball with white students during his time in Little Rock in the 1950s, a number of his basketball pals were not pleased to know that Thomas was one of the nine black students to integrate Arkansas' biggest high school.
Soon after the 40th anniversary of their enrollment, every one of the Little Rock Nine was awarded Congressional Gold Medals. In 1999, President Bill Clinton gave away the medals to Thomas, along with others like LaNier, Melba Patillo Beals, Minnijean Brown Trickey, Elizabeth Eckford, Ernest Green, et al.
On Monday, Clinton released a statement saying that Thomas was a real hero, an excellent public servant and a very good man.
Clinton said, "Jefferson and I had a long visit when he came to my Presidential Center for the 50th anniversary in 2007, and I was struck again by his quiet dignity and kindness. America is a stronger, more diverse, and more tolerant nation because of the life he lived and the sacrifices he made".
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