Samuel Gompers

Jesse L. Thomas, Colts player

Jesse L. Thomas, Colts player

Jesse L. Thomas, a Baltimore Colts defensive back in the 1950s who then spent four decades at Morgan State University, serving for several years as its head football coach, died of dementia complications May 16 at his Columbia home. He was 83.

Born in Guthrie, Okla., and raised in Flint, Mich., he was a much-praised athlete at its Central High School, where he was inducted into the school's Hall of Fame. He was Flint's 1945 Athlete of the Year and held letters in basketball, baseball, track and football. He was also the 1945 Michigan broad jump champion.

He earned a degree at Michigan State University, where he ran track and played football. In 1951, he represented the...