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Decedents of the Founding Families of Plano's Douglass Community Share Memories of Their Families

Updated: Feb 16, 2021

Cousins Dollie Thomas, Toni Thomas & James Thomas Jr. Think Back on Early Life in the Douglass Community

  • Dollie Thomas, a descendant of James Lawrence Thomas 1 and Willy Mea Thomas. Thomas Elementary, daughter of Benjamin Thomas

  • Toni Thomas, a descendant of James Lawrence Thomas 1 and Willy Mea Thomas. Thomas Elementary, daughter of Benjamin Thomas (the second son of James)

  • James L. Thomas Jr. III (affectionately referred to as Baby Duty), grandson of James L. Thomas Sr. and oldest son of James L. Thomas Jr. (known as Duty Thomas)

  • Thomas Elementary is named after James Thomas Sr. and has been in existence for 41 years James Lawrence Thomas, or "Mr. Jim", as the namesake of this school was known by the citizens of Plano, was known throughout the more than 60 years that he lived in Plano as an unselfish humanitarian. He provided food and shelter not only for his own family of 11 children but also for the children of other families. Mr. Thomas opened the first laundry service in the city, provided janitorial service for most of the downtown businesses, and found time to be Plano's first African American fireman. He died in 1968 at the age of 78. Thomas Elementary opened in 1978 at a cost of $1.3 million and had one addition in 1980.

  • Thomas Gymnasium is named after Dollie and Toni's father. He helped to bring about the Douglass Center, where the Colored High School used to stand. Ben Thomas was honored by the city's naming the Douglass Community's Thomas Gymnasium after him.

This exhibit is a casual interview between cousins about their lives growing up and the transition from encountering segregation to integration in the community and in schools.

Exhibit Activities & Discussions:

  1. In what ways did Dollie, Toni, and James have the same experience in school?

  2. In what ways did Dollie, Toni, and James have a different experience in school?

  3. What were some of the challenges that students and teachers had when schools were newly integrated?

  4. How did Toni feel going to art class as a young girl?

  5. What story of kindness did Toni share of the friendships she formed in school? What did the girls do to show Toni they wanted to be friends?

  6. What were some of the hurtful and hard experiences that Toni encountered during her first year of school?

  7. What were some ways Toni knew her teachers cared about her?

  8. What impression did Coach Kimbrough and Coach Clark on Dollie, James, and Toni?

  9. How was James' experience in school and as an athlete different than Toni's?

  10. How did James describe the unfairness he felt in school and athletics?

  11. What kind of special traditions were celebrated by the cousins?

  12. How many siblings did their grandfather have?

  13. Where did they spend their summers?

  14. What can we learn from the experience shared by Dollie, Toni, and James?

  15. What are some lessons we can learn from the stories shares by Dollie, Toni, and James?

  16. In what ways have Dollie, James and Toni continued the legacy of their family?

  17. What is a philanthropist and why is this role important to the community?

  18. What are the names of some of the non-profits that they support and what are the areas of impact that these non-profits serve?

  19. What role did the church have in the Black community?

  20. What are some similarities between your family and the stories shared by Dollie, James, and Toni?

This Exhibit is Sponsored By Douglass Visions Committee

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