Oliver C. Thomas
Published: Friday, December 19, 2008
Oliver Clark Thomas passed away Tuesday, December 16, 2008 at the age of 94. He is survived by his stepson, Dr. Ray Moore of Little Rock, Ark., and his sisters-in-law, Mrs. Kay Fulton of Lubbock and Mrs. Joyce Woods of Shamrock. He was preceded in death by his wife, Melba Watson Thomas, who passed away in 1994.
Thomas had a long and distinguished career. Born in Hereford in 1914, he soon moved with his parents to Greenville and later to Kaufman, where he graduated from high school in 1932 after receiving the Eagle Scout Award in 1930. He attended Southern Methodist University and, later, Texas Tech University, from which he graduated.
Thomas served on the Texas Good Roads/Transportation Association for many years and was elected its president from 1983 to 1984. The Association was the unofficial organization of the Texas Highway Department and the vehicle through which the needs of the department were made public. This membership was an outgrowth of his interest gained in improving highway construction and communication while he was Chairman of the Highways, Streets and Roads Committee of the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce.
Earlier, one week after Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese, Thomas enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Force, later becoming an instructor at the Aircraft Mechanics School at Sheppard Field. He later volunteered for the B-29 Flight Engineers School, serving in that capacity for 17 bombing missions over Japan. Unfortunately, on his last mission, his plane was shot down over Yokohama and he was forced to bail out, later being held as prisoner at the Kempi Tai Military Police headquarters in Tokyo.
Eventually, after the atomic bombs were dropped on Japan, he was taken to Omori Prison Camp on a small island in Tokyo Bay, from which he was eventually liberated by a task force sent by Admiral Halsey in August of 1945. He witnessed the signing of the treaty with Japan from his hospital ship on September 2. Thomas was awarded the Air Medal with an Oak Leaf Cluster, a Unit Citation, the Purple Heart, the P.O.W. Medal, and the Distinguished Flying Cross.
After World War II, he and his brother Hughes opened Thomas Brothers Office Outfitters in Lubbock and operated that business until it was sold in 1991, after which he enjoyed a long retirement. He was a member of the Rotary Club, The First United Methodist Church, and Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity.
Visitation will be Friday, December 19 from 5 to 7 p.m. at Resthaven Funeral Home. Funeral services will held be at First United Methodist Church at 2 p.m. Saturday, December 20. Burial with military honors will follow in Resthaven Memorial Park.