Charles E. Thomas Sr., 80, city social studies teacher

May 02, 2000|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Charles Edward Thomas Sr., a retired social studies teacher, died April 25 of heart failure at his West Baltimore home. He was 80.

Until he retired in 1985, he taught history, civics and geography at Harlem Park Middle School and was well known in his West Baltimore neighborhood near there.

"My father was always being stopped by his former students," said his daughter, Shirley Marie Watkins of Baltimore. "Or he'd be walking down the street, and they would beep their horns."

Mr. Thomas, who moved to the 1800 block of W. Lexington St. in 1948, remained an optimist about the city and delighted in recounting its history and landmarks to his students, friends and relatives. He often drove his 1973 Volkswagen Beetle to the school, where he taught for 30 years.

"My father said the suburbs had nothing to compare to the city," his daughter said. "He said there was nothing but grass out there. He loved the city and always thought it would come back."

He enjoyed pointing out the architectural fine points of Baltimore's rowhouses -- and how they appear similar, but are different.

Mr. Thomas swept his block of Lexington Street -- and the alley behind it. He often called city officials and reported trouble in the neighborhood.

He wrote letters to the editor of local newspapers, including The Sun. In 1994, he commented on a Sun news story about a Randallstown burglar alarm that rang for six days before it was silenced: "The primary blame should be shared by the state and Baltimore County. They did little or nothing to protect the health and welfare of the people."

Mr. Thomas was a music lover and collected the recordings of Paul Robeson, Barbra Streisand and Mario Lanza. He also was a devotee of the Cable News Network and British comedy shows.

He enjoyed reading and studying world geography and history and international politics.

Born in Baltimore, he was a graduate of Carver Vocational Technical High School. He received a bachelor's degree from Morgan State University in 1954 and a master's degree from the same institution in 1964. He did advanced graduate work at the Johns Hopkins University and Towson University.

In 1942, he married the former Shirley Jones, who survives him.

He was drafted into the Army in 1941 and served in both the European and Pacific theaters of World War II.

A Mass was offered yesterday at St. Martin's Roman Catholic Church, Fulton Avenue and Fayette Street.

In addition to his wife and daughter, he is survived by his three sons, Charles Thomas Jr. of Woodlawn, Mark Alan Thomas of Owings Mills and Bruce Kevin Thomas of Baltimore; two daughters, Debra Dennis of Owings Mills and Veronica Lynn Thomas of Randallstown; a brother, Francis Thomas of Baltimore; a sister, Lillian Dial of Pikesville; and five grandchildren.

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