THOMAS, Ruth Naomi Ruth Naomi Wilson Thomas was born on February 15, 1921 in Lynchburg, South Carolina to Claude and Maggie Wilson. The eldest of four children (two of whom are deceased), Ruth grew up on the family farm as an active member of the Presbyterian Church. She received her B.C. degree in Home Economics from Barber? Scotia Junior College in Concord, NC. Mrs. Thomas was a born educator whose teaching career began in 1943 and continued for many years. In 1945, she married James Samuel Thomas, and the couple moved to Atlanta. In 1951, Mrs. Thomas enrolled in graduate classes at Cornell while her husband pursued his Ph.D. degree and, after a brief return to Atlanta, the family moved to Nashville, TN in 1953 when her husband accepted a position with the then-Methodist church. In 1964, Rev. Dr. James Thomas was elected Bishop of the United Methodist Church and made church history with his assignment to the previously all-white conference of Iowa. In 1976 Bishop Thomas was appointed to the East Ohio area until 1988, when he retired from the episcopacy. As the wife and partner of the bishop and in her own right, Mrs. Thomas balanced speaking engagements, conferences, world travel, spiritual retreats, hosting of events, and many other activities with motherhood. She did so with profound grace and apparent ease. Now in "retirement," Mrs. Thomas remained active in United Methodist and community programs while her husband taught at SMU in Dallas (1988-1992) and at Emory University in Atlanta (1992-1996). Her greatest gifts were the love, nurturing, joy, and insight that she so generously shared with others. Mrs. Thomas is survived by three daughters: Gloria, Margaret, and Patricia; four grandchildren: Ramona, Sarita, Ashley, and Christopher; and one great-granddaughter, Zayia. Through Gloria's marriage to Thomas Pillow, the Thomases acquired two other grandchildren-Shantell and Thomas Pillow Ill (Trey), great? granddaughter, Raven, and great-great grandson, Ashton. Mrs. Thomas is also survived by younger sister Alethia Elreita George, niece Alicia George, and Alicia's children Samaria and Sy IV, all of Pittsburgh. Her beloved husband of 65 years and her eldest daughter Claudia predeceased her in 2010 and 2011, respectively. In addition to other cousins, nieces, nephews. and other relatives, Mrs. Thomas's life was profoundly enriched by a huge extended family of loving friends, many of whom call her "Mama Ruth." Visitation is at Gus Thornhill Funeral Home on Monday, January 23, from 6-7 p.m. Funeral services will be held on Tuesday, January 24 at 11:00 a.m. at Cascade United Methodist Church at 3144 Cascade Road, SW.
Published in Atlanta Journal-Constitution from Jan. 19 to Jan. 23, 2017.