Born in Norfolk, Virginia, Brother John Charles Thomas was a precocious young boy, who at the age of 4 could recite the WIlliam Cullen Bryant poem, Thanatopsis.
Brother Thomas graduated from the University of Virginia in 1973 and went on to become one of the first Black students to attend UVa’s law school in 1973. After graduating from law school Brother Thomas joined the prestigious southern law firm of Hunton & Williams as the firm’s first Black lawyer. Brother Thomas excelled as a corporate lawyer at the firm, and in 1982 was made partner. “He was the first Black lawyer in the history of the American South — from Virginia to Texas — to come to an old-line, southern law firm out of law school and ‘go up the line’ to make partner.”
In 1980, he was initiated into the Upsilon Nu Chapter in Richmond, Virginia. Shortly thereafter, Upsilon Nu recognized Brother Thomas as its “Omega Man of the Year”.
In 1983, Brother John Charles Thomas was appointed by Governor Charles Robb as Justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia. He was the first African American and youngest person of any race to receive such an appointment.
In 1995, Brother Thomas received the NAACP’s Lifetime Image Award.
Following his retirement on Virginia’s High Court, Brother Thomas was selected to sit on the Court of Arbitration for Sport, located in Lausanne, Switzerland. On the Court of Arbitration for Sport, Brother Thomas is one of 200 people on the planet to judge doping cases for the Olympics, FIFA, LPGA, and the Tour de France.
An interesting note…Brother Thomas was succeeded on the court by Brother Leroy R. Hassell, Sr., who we spotlighted last week, and who went on to become the Virginia High Court’s first Black chief justice. How’s that for bridge building?
Brother Thomas’ Omega roots include: Brother Thomas Euric Sears (Nu Psi Chapter at Virginia State College), and served as Grand Chaplain; Brother Charles Wallace Sears (Iota Psi Chapter at Ohio State University); and Brother Rufus Sears (Sigma Rho Chapter).
Thank you once again for Walking the Ward with us.
Make it a great week Brothers. Be noble!
3rd District History and Archives Committee
The Monday Pearl is provided by the Third District History and Archives Committee and is a weekly sharing of fraternity content, commentary, and research of historical value we hope Brothers will enjoy and from which Brothers will draw inspiration. Previous “Pearls” can be found at https://3rddistrictques.org/about-us/overview/monday-pearl/. The Committee encourages your feedback. Should you have reactions, comments, information, anecdotes, documents, and the like, related to any of the content we share, we’d very much like to hear from you. Please send all communication to firstname.lastname@example.org.