September 21, 1928 – March 11, 2020
Thomas Smith was born to T. Callie Bond and Thomas Smith in Decatur, Illinois. Thomas attended elementary school and high school in Decatur. He was musically talented and took up drums at a young age. He attended one semester of college at Illinois State University before enlisting in the Army, where he served from 1946 to 1949. He was stationed at Fort Lewis in Washington State and was a member of the Army band. As a young man, Thomas was part of a territory band. Drummer Thomas and his band crisscrossed the Midwest, typically playing one-nighters, 6 or 7 nights a week. While band life was fun and exciting, Thomas decided to continue his education. He received his bachelor’s degree in history and political science at Millikin University in Decatur. And then went on to receive his master’s degree in educational administration at the University of Chicago. Mr. Smith worked as a teacher in the Chicago Public School System and then went on to become the first African American principal at Carver High School. He was also the first African American principal in the Davenport, Iowa School System in 1970. Mr. Smith instituted the first school in Davenport emphasizing a back-to-basics approach to learning in a more structured environment than the typical public school. This was Lincoln Fundamental School. Thomas left education for a short period of time (1987 to 1989) and served as the Executive Director of the Rock Island Housing Authority. Thomas returned to education as the principal of Grant Intensive Basic School in 1989, where he implemented many of the successful components of Lincoln Fundamental School. Thomas moved to Arizona in 1996 to take a job as principal of Longfellow Elementary School. He retired from education in August 2003. Mr. Smith was a proponent of the martial arts and loved playing tennis. Thomas is survived by his wife, Helene; his son, Brian, Sr.; his grandchildren, Tiffany, Stephanie, and Brian, Jr.; his sister, Temetra Gronemeier; and his niece, Linn Hummel.
Celebration of Life
Saturday, October 17, 2020
October 18, 2020
My thoughts and prayers are with you Helene. You and Mr. Tom made me feel welcome every time we got together. I loved making Mr. Tom laugh and smile which showed me that he was having a good time. Lean on God, you'll get through your difficult times. Remember to appreciate all the wonderful times you had together... Your truly...Milton (Rum Chata) Haynes.
March 27, 2020
My Prayers and Condolences are with you in this time of sorrow. I am truly sorry to hear about the passing of Mr. Tom.
My sister Bonnie spoke so highly of him I felt like I knew him longer then I did.
1: I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
2: My help cometh from the Lord, The Lord which made heaven and earth.
We have a great need for Christ and a great Christ for our needs.
March 16, 2020
I remember Mr. Tom and that is what I always called him. He was a very kind person and I will miss him dearly. I enjoyed going over to the house with him and Helene and watching football with him. Depending on the game we would end up falling asleep before it was over (oh it was usually the Cardinals) lol. Helene would be there watching the both of us. I know that he used to love my sweet potato pies. I will truly miss his laugh and his humor. Helene and Mr. Tom was always so nice to my friends and family and I want to thank you Helene for that. Mr. Tom is still smiling down on you Helene and I will always remember him always.