J. Richard Thomas, a former Equitable Life Assurance Society representative who was a member of numerous boards, died Jan. 19 of complications from heart disease at the Brightwood Retirement Community in Lutherville. The former Ruxton resident was 94.
“Richard was an outstanding gentleman, loyal friend and civic-minded,” said Dr. William F. Fritz, a retired Baltimore internist. “He had a strong moral fiber, uncompromising integrity, a quick wit, keen intellect and a heart full of compassion.”
James Richard Thomas — who was known as Richard — was the son of Henry Briscoe Thomas Jr., a banker, and his wife, Anne Mason Banks, a homemaker. He was born and raised at Calvert and Biddle streets and later in Guilford.
He was a direct descendant on his mother’s side of Col. George Mason of Gunston Hall, who wrote the Virginia Bill of Rights, whose provisions were later incorporated into the U.S. Constitution. He was also a direct descendant of James Thomas, who was Maryland governor from 1830 to 1833, and lived at Deep Falls Farm in St. Mary’s County.
Mr. Thomas was a Gilman School graduate and earned a bachelor’s degree in 1947 from Princeton University. He served in the Marine Corps during the Korean conflict and was stationed with the 11th Engineering Battalion at Fort McHenry.
Mr. Thomas joined the Equitable Life Assurance Society in 1947 and was “consistently among its top producers throughout his working career and was named to the company’s Hall of Fame,” according to a biography supplied by his family to The Baltimore Sun.
He was a past president of the Baltimore chapter of the Chartered Life Underwriters and a member of the board of the Baltimore Life Underwriters Association who was presented the Helen C. Hottenbacher Award, its highest honor.
Even though Mr. Thomas retired from Equitable in 2005, he kept his license active until last year, family members said.
Mr. Thomas had been a longtime trustee of Goucher College and was a member of the committee that recommended to the board that the school become coed, which allowed it to appeal to a far larger student base. He also had been a member and president of the Gilman School board of trustees.
“Gilman was his true love,” said a son, James Richard Thomas Jr. of Ruxton.
Other boards he served on included the Kimmel Cancer Center Advisory Board, Prostate Cancer Advisory Board, Johns Hopkins University, Johns Hopkins Hospital, , the Baltimore Equitable Society, NationsBank of Maryland (now Bank of America), Central Savings Bank, Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Maryland Red Cross, Baltimore Area Boy Scouts and YMCA of Central Maryland.
He was a past president of the Princeton Alumni Association of Maryland, and of the Churchman’s Club of Maryland and the Maryland Children’s Aid Society, which is now a part of the Family and Children’s Society.
A lifelong Episcopalian, he had been a member and vestryman of Christ Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd. He had served on several committees of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland, including the board that initially developed the Fairhaven Retirement Community in Sykesville.
He and his wife of 70 years, the former Mary McCormick, enjoyed spending summers at a second home they owned on Squirrel Island, Maine, where he was president of the Squirrel Island Preservation Foundation, a trustee of the Squirrel Island Chapel and chairman of the Squirrel Island Board of Overseers.
Mr. Thomas was a member of the Maryland Club, Elkridge Club, Bachelors’ Cotillon and Society of the Cincinnati.
His busy life with his various boards and trusteeships left him little time for hobbies.
“All he ever did was work. His avocation was work,” his son said. “He dabbled at golf and was a sociable chap, but it really was work and public service.”
Said Dr. Fritz, a Ruxton resident: “I’ve known Richard for 65 years. He was one of my early patients, but was a friend first. It was a privilege being his good friend.”
A memorial service for Mr. Thomas will be held at 4 p.m. Friday at the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer, 5603 N. Charles St.
In addition to his wife, Mr. Thomas is survived by two other sons, Henry Briscoe Thomas of Woodbrook and William McCormick Thomas of St. Louis; a daughter, Mary Stuart Thomas of Chaptico; a brother, Andre Banks Thomas of Lutherville; 10 grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.