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Judge William Thomas was an extraordinary man

By Kay S. Pedrotti In The Herald Gazette office, my desk is about as far from the front door as it’s possible to be. But when the late judge William Thomas came to visit, I could immediately recognize the stentorian tones of his amazing voice. Usually I would dash up to the counter so I could say hello. I will really miss that ‘“ and a lot of other things about Will Thomas. I think of him in the three words that defined my conversations with him: faith, courage, wisdom. He and Jean were among the first friends I made when we moved to Milner 10 years ago; we were working with the Friends of the Library Milner and the Sociables luncheons at Milner Methodist. They were members of Milner Baptist Church but never let any kind of label divide them from working in the community. However, there was always a condition ‘“ if some event interfered with Sundays or Bible studies, those came first. Will used to make coffee for the fundraiser suppers the Friends sponsored, but if it was on a night when he was leading or attending a study or mission meeting, somebody else made the coffee. Will’s faith was not for show. It was genuine and deep. He was a man touched by Jesus, walking with Jesus, depending on Jesus, telling the message of Jesus to others. The word ‘example’ comes to mind, not to mention ‘inspiration.’ Then there’s his courage. He lost his father at an early age and learned the meaning of hard work through many hardships. Even a diagnosis of serious disease in April of 2014 was not enough to make him bitter or angry; he just fought it with all he had. The hardest part for the former magistrate judge, I think, was having to give up his job on the bench. At that, he still continued to ‘fill in’ at the court for judge Karen Jackson, a person in whom he recognized serious potential and had great trust. I remember feeling humbled in the presence of Will’s wisdom and education. Accumulated through years of schooling, marriage and children, serving his country, and making important changes in the magistrate court, Will’s wisdom was sought by many of us. I can recall times when I wanted advice about the thorny problems sometimes faced by a reporter; Will could always be trusted to offer a near-perfect analysis of my situation and several possible options. Trust ‘“ Will Thomas was a man who always told the truth even after years of listening to liars in his courtroom. (He got good at recognizing them, whether criminals or lawyers.) This column has been intended to deal with my feelings about the facts I knew of the judge. You could stare at his resume, or list of educational and other accomplishments, and still not know the real man. Most of these things I’ve said about him I told him many times in our conversations. If I had a chance to say goodbye, I would have a hard time with just a few words to tell him what he meant to me and to this community. So I’ll just rely on this from Scripture: ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant.’ Kay Pedrotti is a writer and reporter for The Herald Gazette.

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