600 Maryland Avenue S.W./Suite 800E
Washington, D.C. 20024
(202) 552-3300
(202) 439-4704

Thank You, “Doc!” Asante Sana.
Good Night Sweet Prince, and Flights of Angels Sing Thee to Thy Rest.

NAFEO NATION Leader from 1989 until his death, Elder, Baba, “Doc Arthur E. Thomas,”  HBCU Olympian who carried the torch high for HBCUs and African-ancestored  people, worldwide, without breaking stride and without faltering  for over half a century, ended his earthly race on Thursday, February 9, 2023, at age 84..

To quote one of Doc’s heroes, “Death is something inevitable…When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his country and his people, he can rest in peace.” Having  fought the fight, finished the race, with singular focus, perseverance, and determination, and while  keeping the faith, our Honorable Doctor Arthur E. Thomas can rest in peace. 

Dr. Thomas dedicated his entire adult life and career to championing causes of the poor, the oppressed, and the least of these. He leveraged all of his resources to fight injustices wherever “they reared their ugly head,”  while serving as a NAFEO Presidential Fellow. In that capacity he continued his mentorship that was the hallmark of his life.

A 1962 graduate of Central State University, Dr. Thomas served as an elementary and high school teacher, as well as a football and track coach. He also taught, and directed advocacy programs. While President of Central State University, Dr. Thomas pushed back indefatigably against the “Barbarians at the Gate” of Central State University, and forced government attackers of Central State retreat. The actions of Dr. Arthur E. Thomas  kept open the doors of Central State University and in so doing, kept open the doors of equal educational opportunity, excellence, and equity in Ohio. Central State University is the only public HBCU in the State of Ohio. Said NAFEO President Baskerville, “I was privileged to have been dispatched to assist Dr. Thomas in fighting the Barbarians at the Gates of Central State University as a 3rd year law student at Howard University School of Law.  That experience played a major role in my decision to dedicate my legal service to fighting to sustain and strengthen America’s mission-based HBCUs, and paved the way for Doc’s mentorship for more than 30 years.

While serving as the President of Central State University, Doc served as a Chair of the Board of Directors of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO). At NAFEO, Dr. Thomas secured a $40 million congressional appropriation for a virtual democracy and technology partnership between twenty HBCUs and twenty African colleges and universities.

Dr. Thomas was selected by President Clinton to serve as an official U.S. representative to the first democratic elections in South Africa. During his tenure as President at Central State University, he awarded more than 100 full scholarships to African students from 23 African countries. Ten students were recipients from South Africa in fulfillment of a commitment to Madiba Nelson Mandela.

As Doc battled health challenges, he continued to serve NAFEO in his capacity as NAFEO Presidential Fellow. In this capacity, among other things, Dr. Thomas shaped, advanced, secured funding for HBCUs and PBIs, and for six years directed a NAFEO, HACU, and AIHEC (Alliance for Equity in Higher Education) presidential pipeline initiative, to prepare the next cohorts of HBCU, PBI, HSI, and TCU presidents and chancellors. As a NAFEO Presidential Fellow, Doc continued the mentorship that was the hallmark of his life.  

Doc’s proudest roles were those of paterfamilias and besotted grandfather. Doc struggled to remain here as his body was failing him, to continue these relished  roles. The hearts and prayers of the NAFEO Nation go out to Jeff Thomas, Doc’s son, and his wife, Karen, Attorney Cheryl Washington, Doc’s beloved companion and Fiancée for many years, Doc’s grandchildren, great grandchildren, and the thousands who loved him as their “Dad,” Brother–Nupes and other Brothers–Family, mentor, leader Baba, colleague, Model of Black Excellence and Black Manhood, and friend.

Farewell Dr. Thomas. Farewell Baba, Brother, Mentor, Doc-Doc! Good night Sweet Prince.

Hon. Lezli Baskerville, Esquire, President & CEO, NAFEO;
Founding Director, ECRID Credit Bureau & Lending Corporation, ECRID Credit Union
Director, Black Shopping Channel 
Also on behalf of:

Dr. Wilma J. Roscoe, Interim President & President Emerita, NAFEO
Lieutenant-Colonel Honorable Peter Gibbs, President, Foundation Surety and Insurance Solutions
Dr. Earl Richardson, President Emeritus, Morgan State University
Olympian Torchbearer for Coalition for Equity & Excellence in Maryland Higher Education, et. al v. Maryland Higher Education Commission, et. al; Former NAFEO Board Chair
Dr. George T. French, President, Clark Atlanta University, President Emeritus, Miles College,    Former Chair, NAFEO Board Chair
Hon. Joe Madison,   Legendary Voice in Radio, “Black Eagle,”  and celebrated  human and civil rights activist
Current, Past and Future HBCU Presidents & Chancellors
Doc’s NAFEO  W.K. Kellogg  Leadership Protégés

As preferred expressions of sympathy, please send a contribution to  the Delta Zeta Alumni Foundation Inc,

Alternatively, please send checks payable to the Delta Zeta Alumni Foundation Inc., Dr. Arthur E. Thomas Scholarship,  7452 Portbury Park Lane Suwanee, GA 30024.

Special Tribute to Dr. Arthur E. Thomas


The National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO) is the nation’s only national membership association of all of the nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Predominantly Black Institutions (PBIs). Founded in 1969, by the presidents and chancellors of HBCUs and other equal educational opportunity institutions, NAFEO is a one of a kind membership association representing the presidents and chancellors of the public, private, independent, and land-grant, two-year, four-year, graduate and professional, HBCUs and PBIs.

Contact NAFEO

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Suite 800E Washington, D.C. 20024