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Street formally being dedicated in honor of Jim Thomas Sr.
Jim Thomas

It’s a proper tribute to a Manteca education icon..

Sierra High will formerly dedicate the street in front of the Manteca Unified campus after Jim Thomas Sr. on Wednesday, Nov. 25.

The address – SHS is located at 1700 Thomas St. – already has his name but the Thomas family, in conjunction with the City of Manteca and Sierra High, will make it official with “Jim Thomas Street.”

 The dedication will take place at 2:30 p.m. in the parking lot in front of the SHS administration building.

“Mr. Thomas Sr. was a decorated World War II veteran and served as a teacher and principal at Lincoln Elementary School,” Principal Steve Clark said on Monday.

The dedication ceremony featuring the Thomas family will include following safety measures amid the COVID-19 pandemic such as social distancing and wearing of face masks. In case of rain, the event will be moved indoors, Clark said.

He mentioned talks of renaming Thomas Street to that of Timberwolves Way had been recently discussed. But remembering Jim Thomas Sr. was more important.

Inducted into the Manteca Hall of Fame in 2002, he was praised for his leadership, knowledge and dedication he gave the district for over three decades. 

Thomas, who passed away two years ago, came to California via Oklahoma in 1959 to teach at Lincoln School.

Four years later, he was principal of the school.

In 1973, Thomas was the assistant superintendent of MUSD under Harold Hughes. He later followed Hughes by becoming superintendent.

Thomas retired in 1986. He passed away in 2018.

The son of a coal miner, he grew up during the depths of the Great Depression.  He worked hard as a young man in order to make a better life for himself.  He became the first in his family to attend college.  He received his Bachelor’s Degree from Oklahoma State University in Vocational Agriculture and received his Master’s Degree in School Administration from Tulsa University.

 During World War II, Jim joined the United States Navy and graduated from Midshipman’s School at Columbia University in New York City.  He became a naval officer and achieved the rank of Lieutenant .He was commanding officer of an amphibious (LSM) ship in the South Pacific.  Near the end of the war, he was assigned to Leyte Gulf in the Philippines where thousands of warships were being amassed.  He was privileged to top secret information that they would soon be launching an invasion of Japan as a part of Operation Downfall; however, the attack was averted due to President Truman’s decision to drop the atomic bombs on Japan which ended the war.  Following the Japanese surrender, Lt. Thomas sailed his ship into Yokohama and Tokyo as part of the U.S. occupation forces.

Thomas served as a member of the Board of Directors of Doctors Hospital of Manteca for several years during the 1980s.  He was inducted into the Manteca Hall of Fame in 2002 for his contributions to public education.  Following his retirement as superintendent of schools, he was instrumental in obtaining state funding for the construction of George McParland, Brock Elliott, Stella Brockman, Joshua Cowell, and August Knodt Elementary Schools, and Sierra High School.

Thomas was an avid, and successful fisherman.  He particularly loved salmon fishing on the Sacramento River and striper fishing on the Delta.  He also caught a number of sturgeons in the Suisun Bay that weighed in at over 100 pounds.

Sierra High has been near and dear to the Thomas family – seven of Jim and Neva’s grandchildren attended the school on Thomas Street.

It’ll soon be Jim Thomas Street.