National Track & Field Hall of Famer represented Boston University and the Boston Athletic Association.
Statements on the passing of John Thomas by B.A.A. officials:
"John Thomas transcended what it meant to be a champion and an Olympian, and he achieved legendary status not only within the Boston Athletic Association but also in Boston sports. As the first African American member of the B.A.A., he made a profound, positive impact on us. He was a gentleman who we greatly respected, and he displayed the very best that sports can offer through his successes and how he represented himself and others. John was an inspiration to all, and we will aspire to honor his memory as we continue in our 125th Anniversary year."
-- Joann E. Flaminio, B.A.A. President
"For those of us growing up in Greater Boston in the 1950s and 1960s, John Thomas in the high jump was our personal connection to national, international and Olympic track and field. He was the first over seven feet indoors. He was the B.A.A. athlete who set world records. Ever since, when I have heard his name, the height 7'3-3/4" always comes to mind as the then stunning world record. He was on TV in the Olympics, and he competed against the Russians on Wide World of Sports. To us in that day, his name meant ‘excellence’ on the world stage, and it felt personal to us. His was the name we looked for in every track meet and two Olympics. To see him at our 125th anniversary last month at the Boston Garden, on the site where he competed in the old B.A.A. Indoor Games, was a gripping moment for everyone there. It was a privilege to have him compete for the B.A.A. We will miss him, but he will continue to inspire."
-- Thomas S. Grilk, B.A.A. Executive Director
Brockton Enterprise article on John Thomas:
Tribute to John Thomas written by Toni Reavis:
John Thomas Wikipedia entry:
USA Track & Field Hall of Fame:
From The B.A.A. at 125 by John Hanc, published by Sports Publishing®, copyright © 2012 by the Boston Athletic Association and John Hanc (Sports Publishing is a division of Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.® and The B.A.A. at 125 is scheduled for general release in Spring 2013):
There were exceptions to that during this period, and the most spectacular was a man who didn’t run, but jumped higher than anyone in the world. As a freshman at Boston University in 1959, John Thomas had stunned the track world when he became the first athlete to clear seven feet in the high jump indoors. In 1963, Thomas was recruited by [Will] Cloney to join the B.A.A. track team. In a sense, he was the B.A.A., especially during the indoor season. There were the marathon runners and me,” recalls Thomas. “We were like a family.”
Thomas was one of the most distinguished members of the clan. A nine-time national champion in his career, he competed in the 1964 U.S. Olympic Trials as a B.A.A. athlete – and went on to win a silver medal in the Games in Tokyo.
In addition to being the lone jumper on a team of marathon runners, Thomas was African American, one of the very few in that era to compete as a B.A.A. athlete.
The B.A.A. will update its web page as services/memorial plans are announced (as of Thursday, January 17, 2013).