John Thomas; 'Revered' By Patients

Posted: July 27, 1995

John W. Thomas, 76, of Yeadon, a surgeon whose grateful patients often sent him gifts of jam and fruit baskets, died Monday at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

Dr. Thomas always made sure that his patients were well taken care of in the hospital. He made it a point to visit all of them on the weekends, and he encouraged other hospital caregivers to always show warmth and kindness.

"He was revered by his patients," said his son, Eric Whitmore Thomas. Born in St. Matthews, S.C., Dr. Thomas was the son and grandson of Methodist ministers. In 1936, he graduated from Lincoln High School in Jersey City, N.J. He became a pre-med student at Lincoln University, where he also was active in the theater, and received his medical degree in 1943 from Howard University's School of Medicine. While at Howard, Dr. Charles Drew, famed for his work with blood plasma, was his mentor. He also served in the ROTC program.

Dr. Thomas did his residency at the Freedmens Hospital in Washington before moving to Philadelphia and doing his residency in surgery at the former Douglas Hospital in 1944 and 1945.

After completing a fellowship at the Harrison Department of Research Surgery, University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Thomas became one of the first African Americans to attend Penn's Graduate School of Medicine during the 1950s.

Following his residency at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Thomas was named director of the outpatient department in emergency at the former Mercy-Douglas Hospital. He also maintained a private practice at 40th Street and Haverford Avenue in West Philadelphia.

When Mercy-Douglas closed its doors in 1973, he was director of surgery.

Dr. Thomas then joined the medical staff at HUP. He was named an associate in the department of surgery and taught general surgery at Penn and Hahnemann University School of Medicine.

He also served on the medical staffs at Mercy Catholic Medical Center, Women's Hospital of Philadelphia, Sacred Heart Hospital in Chester, and at Hahnemann, where he was an assistant chief of surgery and a professor of surgery.

At the time of his death, he was semiretired and was an associate in the surgery department at HUP.

He was a fellow of the American College of Surgeons and the Philadelphia

College of Physicians. He was a member of American Medical Association, the National Medical Association, the American Board of Surgeons, and the Philadelphia County and Pennsylvania State Medical Societies.

He also was a member of Omega Psi Phi and Sigma Pi Phi fraternities.

Dr. Thomas loved jazz, Duke Ellington being his favorite. After giving up golf, a game he liked when he was younger, he took to bicycling, especially at his summer home in Pleasantville, N.J.

During the mid 1950s, Dr. Thomas served as a captain in the Army.

Besides his son, Dr. Thomas is survived by his wife of more than 50 years, Irma Verdun Thomas; daughters, Janis Thomas Tapscott, Vicki Thomas Richardson, and Vivian Thomas Rankin; three sisters; four grandchildren, and two great- grandchildren.

There will be a viewing from 9 to 11 a.m. Tuesday, followed by funeral services, at Tindley Temple United Methodist Church, 762 S. Broad St. Burial is at Mount Lawn Cemetery in Sharon Hill.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, 99 Hudson St., 16th Floor, New York, N.Y. 10013.

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