Funeral services were held at 2 p.m. March 16 at Grace Baptist Church, with a beautiful family dinner following the graveside service at Stephens Memorial Gardens with Whitlock Mortuary and the Rev. Kevin Burris of Grace Baptist Church officiating.
Born Jan. 8, 1916, at the Toccoa home of grandparents’ William Jordan and Writtie Brewer Jordan to his late parents, Thurston and Jennie Jordan Thomas, he was soon moved to their new home on Thurston’s father’s farm (Charles Washington Thomas) near Morris Presbyterian Church, six miles south of Franklin, N.C., where the relatives of Dr. Charles Washington Thomas still live today.
Maurice was preceded in death by his sweet wife, Anne Johnson Thomas (July 31, 1919-Sept. 11, 2011) and his brothers and sisters, Lyndal Bowen, Bruce Thomas, Jewel Gay, and Opal Stewart. Two remaining siblings are Hubert Thomas of Greenville, S.C., and Margaret Satterfield of California.
He graduated from Furman University in 1941 and taught English at Ellen Woodside High School to earn money to attend Southwestern Baptist Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. In 1944, he married the love of his life, Anne Johnson from Athens, who was also there earning her master’s degree in religious education. As a seminary student, he and Anne conducted revivals and vacation Bible schools in surrounding churches and helped to start up mission churches in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. He served as pastor to First Baptist Church at Bonham, Texas, and later as pastor for Chapel Hill Baptist Church near Wolf City, Texas, while attending the seminary.
On April 21, 1946, Easter Sunday, as he was preparing to preach, he received a message saying that his son, Bill Thomas, had been born, but that Anne said to go on and preach first and then come see his new son. So that’s what he did. She often served as his valuable organizer and secretary while he was out in the mission field and away preaching. Later in 1946, he and Anne accepted the call to move and serve as pastor for First Baptist Church of Lyons, where they served three years.
In 1949, Maurice was called to the pastorate at First Baptist Church of Lumber City. So after discussions and prayer with Anne, they accepted that call. He served during their time there as the Southern Baptist Denominational chairman of Sunday School Enlargements in the Central Counties of Georgia, minutes editor for the Southern Baptist Association Convention, secretary of the South Georgia Pastor’s Conference, teacher for Mercer University extension classes, served a five-year term on the Georgia Baptist Convention Executive Committee, initiated the Central Association’s Music Department and was a chaplain for the U.S. Air Force at Warner Robins Air Force Base Chapel.
Next, he and Anne were called to serve at First Baptist Church of Gray. While there, on Feb. 13, 1952, their daughter, Rebecca, was born. During their years at First Baptist Church of Gray, they helped to enlarge an overcrowded facility and published sermons on the local radio station.
In 1955, they were called to and accepted to serve as pastor for Western Heights Baptist Church near LaGrange. Later, on Nov. 2, 1955, his son, Jim Thomas, was born. One of the church members, Clayton Bowers, recognized Maurice’s and Anne’s abilities in organizing and teaching Bible classes and decided that he, as principal of Troup County High School, wanted them on his team. He asked Maurice and Anne to organize and start up the first special education program at the high school. They went back for their second master’s degrees in this area at Auburn University and were the first special education teachers at Troup High. They were given an old football field house to teach in. But Maurice said that God loved those children and wanted the best possible lives for them so he and Anne were happy to serve God in that capacity, which was needed.
In 1969, Maurice retired from the ministry and moved his family back home to Toccoa, closer to family. He acquired his sixth-year degree in guidance and counseling and served as guidance counselor for Toccoa High School. He and Anne served God as teachers and he continued to supply preach for churches in the area in need of a temporary pastor. They joined First Baptist of Toccoa and continued in support of the Lord there.
He retired from the field of education in 1978, and began a third career of writing, gardening and as a member and office holder of various civic clubs and organizations. While in Toccoa, he served as state chaplain for the Soil and Water Conservation Districts of Georgia, the state chaplain and later assistant state director of AARP of the State of Georgia. He helped organize and found Grace Baptist Church, where he wrote their first constitution and by-laws. He remained a member there until his home going to the Lord this month. He also authored “Ace of the Piney Woods,” “The Drovers” and “Pulpit Echoes,” as well as the first history of Grace Baptist Church. He wrote articles for the Christian Index, The Toccoa Record, and the Southern Baptist Deacon’s Magazine.
He is survived by his children, Maurice William Thomas Jr., Rebecca Thomas Miller and James Nicholson Thomas. His grandchildren are Nick Thomas and Lena Thomas of Columbus.
He leaves a legacy at Brewton Parker Baptist College in the form of a self-perpetuating scholarship fund for aspiring Baptist ministers who cannot afford the tuition. Donations can be made to the Anne and Maurice Thomas Scholarship Fund at Brewton Parker College.
The Northeast Georgian
March 29, 2013