By Frank Lockwood
HERMISTON John W. Thomas was a fixture on Main Street who is recalled with fondness by family members and those who knew him.
Said to be the first African American to own a business in downtown Hermiston, he raised a family, owned property, bought fine clothes, and was self-sufficient, owning a shoeshine business in downtown Hermiston.
Hermiston's African American families have preserved their view of history, passed it on through oral tradition. One of pioneers of Hermiston's African American population was John Thomas, born in Clay, Texas, in 1897, to an unknown father and a mother who died giving birth to Thomas' twin sister.
According to Thomas' daughter, Gladys Morrison, Thomas' father somehow enlisted him in the Army in 1909 at the age of 12. Several years later, after serving in World War I, he re-enlisted to serve again during World War II.
(For the full story, please see the March 11, 2003, issue of the Hermiston Herald.)