Louis Sanford Thomas III passed last week. His hand-lettered signs were instantly recognizable across Wilson. In an era of computer-generated signs, Thomas’ work in this time-honored form brought a particular pleasure. May he rest in peace.
At age 69, Louis Thomas was born well after the era covered by Black Wide-Awake. His roots were deep in East Wilson, though, as he was the great-grandson of press operator Charlie Thomas and grandson and son of carpenters Louis Thomas Sr. and Louis Thomas Jr., all of whom lived on East Green Street and the first two of whom were buried in Odd Fellows Cemetery. Too, though expressed in clean, modern fonts, his craft was old-school and rooted in the era of East Wilson’s great artistic tradesmen.
In 2014, Thomas sat for interviews as part of Barton College’s Crossing the Tracks: An Oral History of East and West Wilson series, in which he spoke at length of his family’s history, the accomplishments of East Wilson’s tradesmen and professionals, and the community’s emphasis on education and religion.