Services scheduled next week for teacher, author, Air Force veteran Rance Thomas

FLORISSANT — Dr. Rance Thomas — Air Force veteran, columnist, professor, author, visionary and community leader for social justice — died Monday at the age of 89.

He was a 20-year Air Force veteran who served in the Vietnam conflict. After his military service, he became a faculty member at Lewis and Clark Community College in Godfrey, where he retired in 2002 as the first professor emeritus in the school’s history. He was also an adjunct professor at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

Thomas was a featured columnist in The Telegraph and his writing appeared in St. Louis publications. He encouraged parents, schools and churches to teach young people the values ​​that would give them hope for a better future. Shortly before his death he published his book “My Journey, A Testimony of Faith, Hope and Success”.

His nephew, Kevin Mitchell, said Thomas was “calm and concise”.

“When he laughed, you felt like he was hiding the fact of his pleasure, albeit fleeting as he regained control,” Mitchell said on a tribute page at Hutchens Mortuary & Cremation Center. “Without bragging or showing strength, he simply directed his energy towards helping and voicing his concerns for others, especially those in the most disadvantaged communities.

“His advocacy, much like his life, was quiet but penetrating in insight and understanding of others and their needs,” he said. “His questions were frustrating at times as my usual approach was to use my ‘voice in front of the television’, which included swearing and other emotional outbursts of disappointment in our leadership. But speaking with him I had to suppress a large part of that and give it a more concise point of view to deal with.

“When I lost him, he would laugh and just ask more questions,” Mitchell said. “Whenever you spoke with my Uncle Rance, it was always concise and very brief. He would never impose your privacy or force you to succumb to his belief.”

Thomas was a graduate of the University of Nebraska, Southern Illinois University, and Saint Louis University, where he received his Ph.D.

“My college years were made brighter by his light that shone on the campus of Lewis & Clark Community College,” Lillian Shaw said in a tribute. “His mentorship, guidance, guardianship and godly example will always be a gift that will continue to be given. He was a loyal friend to me, the Alton community and the people he served and loved.”

Thomas co-founded North County Churches Uniting for Racial Harmony and Justice in 1998 and has served as its president since its inception. He has also served as president of the Elijah P. Lovejoy Memorial, the Florissant Rotary Club, and the Lewis and Clark Community College Annuitants Association.

He served as vice president of North County Incorporated and chaired its health care task force for four years. He was Vice President of the Coalition of Concerned Citizens of Alton, Vice President of All God’s People of Metropolitan St. Louis, and a member of the Board of Directors of Applied Scholastic International. He organized the North St. Louis County Youth Task Force and served as its chairman.

He was inducted into the SIUE Hall of Fame and the International Educator’s Hall of Fame. His honors included Who’s Who in the Midwest, the Illinois Education Association Human and Civil Rights Award, Citizen of the Year Award for his contributions to improving the quality of life in North County, a Hazelwood School District Lifetime Achievement Award and the inaugural Dr. Rance Thomas Community Partnership Award from St Louis Community College, Florissant Valley.

Viewings are scheduled from 4-8 p.m. on Monday May 16 at Hutchens Mortuary & Cremation Center, 675 Graham Road, Florissant. The funeral is scheduled for 11 a.m. on Tuesday, May 17, with interment at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery.

Lola R. McClure