Longtime UF faculty member Dr. William Thomas Jr. dies

One of the first faculty members of the University of Florida College of Medicine, Dr. William “Billy” Clark Thomas Jr., died peacefully in his sleep on Christmas Day, 2010, at the age of 91.

A memorial service was scheduled for 1 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 6, at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, 100 NE First St., Gainesville.

Dr. Thomas was born on April 7, 1919, in Bartow, Georgia to Margaret Smith Thomas and Dr. W.C. Thomas Sr., a longtime Gainesville obstetrician. He grew up in Gainesville and attended Gainesville High School and later the University of Florida. After graduating from UF, he went on to Cornell Medical School, and completed postdoctoral fellowship training at The Johns Hopkins Medical School.

He served as an Army physician in Guam during World War II. He returned to Gainesville and married Brenda Wiltshire Thomas in 1946.

After his residency at Cornell, Dr. Thomas was in private practice in Gainesville with Dr. Henry H. Graham for five years. He then received additional training in endocrinology at Johns Hopkins, and, in 1957, joined the faculty of the UF College of Medicine. Throughout the majority of his long career at UF, Dr. Thomas was a professor of internal medicine, specializing in endocrinology.

From the early 1970s on, Dr. Thomas was a clinician, educator and researcher at both UF and at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center. His patients held him in high regard. His research focused on calcium metabolism and kidney stones, for which he was a nationally recognized authority. He was also an outstanding leader and administrator. At different times during his long career, he served as the director of the VA Research Service, director of the VA Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Center, and as chief of staff at the VA. During his tenure in these positions, he helped mentor many young faculty, strongly promoting research and education as well as always striving to improve patient care.

“My own career in academic medicine was significantly and directly impacted by Dr. Thomas in 1994 when he appointed me as chief of the anesthesiology service at the Malcom Randall VA Medical Center, and later, along with Mr. Randall, strongly encouraged me to apply for the VA chief of staff position when he announced his intent to retire in 1996,” said Michael Good, M.D., dean of the College of Medicine.

Dr. Thomas retired in 1996 and with Brenda, his wife, lived at Gainesville’s Oak Hammock since 2004. Dr. Thomas and his wife strongly supported Alzheimer’s research as well as education, and the local Alzheimer’s Association established an annual award in his name.

In addition to Brenda, whom he had been married to for 64 years, Dr. Thomas is survived by four children, Sharron Thomas Cochran, of Bethesda, Md.; Clark Thomas, of Nashville; Lynn Thomas, of Gainesville; and Valerie Thomas Bukharin, of Kensington, Md.; seven grandchildren; and a sister, Betty Thomas Graham, of Tallahassee.