Oliver Clark Thomas
Oliver Clark Thomas (March 24, 1914—December 16, 2008) was a decorated prisoner of war held by the Japanese during World War II who later as a Lubbock, Texas, businessman headed the trade group, the Texas Good Roads and Transportation Association.
Thomas was born in Hereford in Deaf Smith County in the Texas Panhandle but moved thereafter with his parents near Dallas, first to Greenville in Hunt County and then to Kaufman, where he was awarded Eagle Scout designation in 1930 and graduated two years later from Kaufman High School. He attended Southern Methodist University in Dallas and later Texas Tech University in Lubbock, from which he graduated.
Thomas enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps, forerunner to the Air Force, a week after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. He was an instructor at the Aircraft Mechanics School at Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas. He subsequently volunteered for the B-29 flight engineering school and participated in seventeen bombing missions over Japan. On his last flight, his plane was shot down over Yokohama. He bailed out and was held prisoner at Kempi Tai police headquarters in Tokyo. After the two atomic bombs were unleashed on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, he was taken to Omori prison camp on a small island in Tokyo Bay.
Thomas was liberated in August 1945 by a task force sent by Admiral William F. Halsey. He witnessed the signing of the Japanese surrender from his hospital ship on September 2, 1945. Thomas was awarded the Air Medal with an Oak Leaf Cluster, a Unit Citation, the Purple Heart, the P.O.W. Medal, and the Distinguished Flying Cross.
After the war, Thomas and his late brother, Hughes Thomas, opened Thomas Brothers Office Outfitters in Lubbock and operated that business until it was sold in 1991. Thomas served on the Texas Good Roads/Transportation Association for many years and was elected its president from 1983-1984. The association, which has related groups in other states, is the lobbying organization of highway contractors doing business through the Texas Highway Department. Thomas also served on the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce and chaired that group’s Highways, Streets and Roads Committee. He was affiliated with Phi Kappi Psi fraternity, Rotary International, and the First United Methodist Church in downtown Lubbock.
Thomas was married to the former Melba Watson (1913-1994). Survivors included his stepson, Dr. Ray Moore of Little Rock, Arkansas, and two sisters-in-law, Mrs. Kay Fulton of Lubbock and Mrs. Joyce Woods of Shamrock in Wheeler County, Texas. Services were held at First United Methodist Church. Interment with military honors was at Resthaven Memorial Park in Lubbock.