Remembering Dr. Roosevelt Thomas, Jr.

thomas-roosevelt

The world lost a great man last week. Dr. Roosevelt Thomas, Jr. passed away suddenly. His family, church,  professional colleagues and hundreds of friends spilled out into the street at Friendship Baptist Church to honor him on what would have been his 69th birthday.

I had the rare privilege of knowing Dr. Roosevelt Thomas, Jr. in recent years as a fellow Berrett-Koehler author and colleague. We had a several thoughtful conversations and I was impressed by his openness to learning new marketing approaches for getting his messages out into the world.

Roosevelt was  a trailblazer in diversity, a past Dean of Clark Atlanta Business School, Secretary of Morehouse College and a widely known consultant and thought leader. I remember hearing him speak to a group of HR managers at a local Society of Human Resource Management meeting where he presented some provocative new ideas about how we must embrace differences and reject assimilation. Do not ignore the issues of race and gender, he said.  Dr. Thomas redefined diversity as a business issue that speaks to the bottom line.

Roosevelt’s stellar record and significant contributions to redefining diversity could fill volumes. He was the author of seven published books and recognized by the Wall Street Journal as one of the top ten consultants in the country. And his academic credentials are no less impressive; Morehouse College Phi Beta Kappa and Summa Cum Laude in Mathematics and Education, an MBA from the University of Chicago and a Doctorate from what one of fraternity brothers jokingly called  “The Morehouse of the North,” Harvard.

As the sun poured in on that packed sanctuary, It was obvious from the many heartfelt tributes that Roosevelt made a true difference in this world. One mourner quoted an African proverb, “You are only dead when you are forgotten”, expressing what we all felt; he will never be forgotten. His lovely daughter, April encouraged us to take his baton and take action.  And while friends and family  noted his numerous achievements and incredible work ethic, what they spoke of most was his humility and the way he listened before he spoke. He was the epitome of an introverted leader and quiet influencer.

Roosevelt, may I savor your silent humility and call it up before I have an urge to “talk out” my thoughts. Thank you for that gift and for the many others you bestowed upon the world. RIP.

 

 

 

6 thoughts on “Remembering Dr. Roosevelt Thomas, Jr.

  1. Stewart Levine

    Roosevelt was a lovely man, a highly evolved thoughtful contribution to all he touched. Though I did not know him well what I observed and experienced was delightful. He touched the earth in a gentle and profound way. His presence will be missed by many. I send my best thoughts to his family and those that were close to him.

    Reply
    1. Jennifer Kahnweiler Post author

      Thanks Stewart…I love your choice of words in describing Roosevelt; especially “profound” and “gentle”…he epitomized my understanding of quiet influencers.

      Reply
  2. Julie O'Mara

    Thank you, Jennifer, for writing this and for attending Roosevelt’s funeral. He was a very special person. He was able to explain complex concepts of diversity and a depth of thought that truly lead the field of diversity management. He was a humble man who thought big and was just a nice man. He was a mentor to many.

    Reply
    1. Jennifer Kahnweiler Post author

      Julie – It was nice of you to write and inform the BK authors about what was going on. I just learned that the local chapter of the Atlanta Diversity Manager’s Group (ADMAG) is having a program on Roosevelt in June. Here is the link. http://tinyurl.com/q83lcz8

      Reply
  3. April Thomas

    Hello Jennifer: This is April Thomas, Dr. Thomas’ daughter. I entered my father’s name for a Google search and I came across your post. Thank you for your kind and gracious words about him. And I’m flattered to have been quoted. How’s your leg of the race going?

    Reply
    1. Jennifer Kahnweiler Post author

      Hello April – I am so glad you reached out. I did send a copy of this with a note to the funeral home for forwarding but it looks like it may not reached you. We had a moment of silence for your Dad at the Berrett-Koehler Author Retreat in Atlanta this past weekend. He was a wonderful man and his love for his family was so apparent. The leg of the race is a great image. I am hoping to walk not race these days:) Let’s definitely stay in touch and thank you for your comment!

      Reply

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