Monday, September 06, 2010
Little Rock nine now there are eight
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Jefferson Thomas, who as a teenager was among nine black students to integrate a Little Rock high school in the nation's first major battle over school segregation, has died. He was 68.
Thomas died Sunday in Ohio of pancreatic cancer, according to a statement from Carlotta Walls LaNier, who also enrolled at Central High School in 1957 and is president of the Little Rock Nine Foundation.
"I had played with some of the white kids from the neighborhood," Thomas said. "I went up to Central High School after school and we played basketball and touch football together. I knew some of the kids.
"Eventually, I ran into them ... and they were not at all happy to see me," Thomas added. "One of them said, 'Well I don't mind playing basketball or football with you or anything. You guys are good at sports. Everybody knows that, but you're just not smart enough to sit next to me in the classroom.'"
Beals said Monday that Thomas was nicknamed "Roadrunner, because he was so fast. You could sometimes avoid danger by running fast."