R.I.P. Jefferson Thomas, One Of Central High’s ‘Little Rock Nine’

- By Bossip Staff

R.I.P. to another Civil Rights hero.

Jefferson Thomas, one of the “Little Rock Nine” who provoked a major civil rights battle when they integrated Arkansas’ largest public high school in 1957 over the opposition of Gov. Orval E. Faubus, died Sept. 5 at a care facility in Columbus, Ohio.

Mr. Thomas, who was 67, had pancreatic cancer. His death was confirmed by Carlotta Walls LaNier, who also enrolled at Central High School in 1957 and is president of the Little Rock Nine Foundation.

Many school districts in the South defied the 1954 Supreme Court ruling that declared racial segregation unconstitutional, forcing lawsuits and violent methods of enforcement. One of the first and most shocking showdowns occurred in Little Rock, when Faubus ordered the state’s National Guard to keep black students out of Central High in September 1957.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower sent the Army’s 101st Airborne Division to carry out the court’s mandate. Nine black students were caught in the middle — corralled by a spitting and rock-throwing mob of white protesters.

Taylor Branch, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian of the civil rights movement, once described Central High’s integration as the “first on-site news extravaganza of the modern television era,” and the subsequent images of the confrontation shocked millions for their disturbing look at American race relations.

Mr. Thomas said decades later that he was stunned and traumatized by the violence. He said Little Rock neighborhoods had not been segregated, even if the schools were, and he often practiced football on weekends with white kids from Central High before the conflict over integration.

“I had no reason to think that the quiet, peaceful place where I grew up could change so drastically,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “I used to go to Central on weekends and play ball with the kids there.”


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  • nana

    Am not even going to pretend I know him but R.I.P!

  • time2getfree

    nana – u don’t know who the little rock 9 are? it’s time to read up on your history.

  • sillez

    Forever a ledgend, and they are for what the did and went though! The brown vs Education a huge change and the change we needed in American history. It’s sad the military use to have to go to school to protect black kids. smh R.I.P


    another great blackmen

  • Prettyrenee

    R.I.P to a brave man who stood up and faced adversity during a time that racial tensions were very high! You will always be remembered for being one of those 9 Black students that broke that barrier! Kids these days would have never been able to go through what you went through and for that, you will always be a legend in my book.

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  • if anything be noble

    Man, I can’t even IMAGINE going through all that, much less go through it at 16 years old. Folk spitting at you, calling you ‘n-word’ as you just try to enter a school building. And he’s the 1st of the Little Rock 9 to die …and he was 67? That’s amazing since all that stress should have killed them all a long time ago (like those whitefolks were intending to do.) May the Lord welcome you home, brother. You helped us all.

  • Yea I'm a racist

    This is y I don’t support interracial dating…

  • Prettyrenee

    It is sad when this has the least amount of comments. This blog should be flooded with people paying condolences. He is a pioneer in the Civil Rights movement and we’re busy commenting on Dwight Howard and his baby mama drama!

  • Sanriobaby =^.^=

    R.I.P. to a man who’s brave and noble actions helped to change our world.

  • http://bossip Tiki Barber

    Rip Mr. Thomas you and your fellow champions were brave and I agree noble.


  • sunflower

    What a life , thanks to all that gave me an opportunity. The best way to honor those that paved the way is to strive for excellence.

  • Kay G. from FL

    Thank you Mr. Thomas – I and many other students of color owe our mixed educational experiences to your and the other 8’s bravery in Little Rock that first day.

  • Reality

    May his family be comforted as he rests with the Lord in heaven chilling and having a great eternity. They paved the way for all our black behinds to enjoy education and wonderful capitalism. Forget bush, Palin and Obama for a second and per homage to true heroes.

  • whatda

    Thanks and rest in peace. Because of you I could get myh education in peace. You and the rest did us proud.

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  • gradschool

    RIP, what they endured to make our lives better. What are we doing with the opportunities today? Don’t let their sacrifices go in vain.

  • http://TLBaby I gets down like that

    R.I.P Mr. Thomas, may GOD be with you. Thank you for all of your sacrifices. For it will not be forgotten.

    @ yeah I’m a racist: 100% CO-SIGN baby!!!

  • Sydney™

    I recall feeling a surge of emotion when I learned that the Little Rock Nine were invited to attend the inauguration of the nation’s first African-American president — the day was filled with so much history, the meeting of the past, the present, and the future of blacks in this country. It was overwhelming to witness. We owe so much to Mr. Thomas and so many other men and women and their multitude of sacrifices to ensure that life would be better for those who followed them. R.I.P. Mr. Thomas, a true civil rights pioneer.

  • williedynamite

    yo…this was just a little over 50 years ago…those people who were spitting and throwing rocks are still alive today…and they say racism doesnt exist.smh

  • Nay

    Jefferson Thomas, thank you for your bravery and resilience. May you rest in peace.

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