yesterday's tennessee

Yesterday's Tennessee

An Interesting Person Dorothy Thomas

by Doris Jarrett

July 29, 1998
Lexington Progress

Our Interesting Person this week is Dorothy J. Kizer Thomas. She is the widow of Ernest Ray Thomas, a former city alderman. After his death, Dorothy was elected to fill his place on the City Board.

She was born in 1949, the 4th of nine children. Her parents are the late John Logan Kizer and Nell Amie Kizer. The family lived in Lexington on Barnhill Street and Dorothy attended Montgomery School finishing the 11th grade. This was 1967, the year the school closed. She graduated with the first integrated class at Lexington High School in 1968.

Her brothers and sisters are as follows: James Earl Kizer, the oldest, a retired police officer and investigator for the city of Nashville. He and his wife, Vernice, have three children.

John L. Kizer and his wife, Sarover, live here. They have five children. He works at Johnson Controls.

Charles Kizer and his wife, Nellie, have five children. He works at Lexington High School as custodian and is a carpenter.

Deloris Priddy, a sister, is married to Don Priddy. They have three children. She works at Big Star.

Danny Ray Kizer and his wife, Carmen, have one son. Danny works at the chain factory.

Scottie Kizer is a Lexington police officer and investigator. He has two children.

Other family members are Thomas Kizer and Perry Kizer, who live and work here. Robert Glyn Kizer lives in Benton Harbor, Mich. Alicia Hopewell, Greg and James Hopewell, all living and working here.

Dorothy's father was a carpenter, police officer and a local politician. He also was the owner of a cafe where "he cooked up some very good barbecue," Dorothy says.

Her mother was a housewife, very gentle and kind. Dorothy remembers her mother making every day very special for all of her children. Mrs. Mary L. [Lee] Moffitt, the grandmother, lived with the family, as did their aunt, Mrs. Mary E. Smith. They were a great help in rearing the children. They are a loving and caring family to this day, we are told. Their other grandparents are the late Logan and Dorothy Kizer. The family name is a proud one in Henderson County and the children reflect this in being of service to the community in which they live.

Dorothy met Ernest Ray Thomas in high school. They dated all the way through, knowing their lives would always be entwined. He graduated 3 years before she did and joined the Army. He was stationed in Germany, but promised to come back and carry her there and he did. After her graduation in May, 1968, she and Ernest were married. They went to Germany to live and their son, Ray Jr. was born there. Returning to the states in 1971, they lived in North Carolina a few years, then back to Lexington to make their home.

His parents are Mrs. Inez Thomas and the late William Ivy Thomas of Lexington. He has one brother and five sisters.

Ernest worked at Century Electric for 23 years. He was the first minority elected to the Board of Aldermen in Lexington. He was chairman of the planning commission and served on the police and fire committees.

Dorothy worked at Brown Shoe Company 23 years until it closed operations. She now works at MIG Co. in Lexington.

The family lives on Derryberry Street and are members of Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church where Ernest was Sunday School Superintendent and deacon. Dorothy serves as Sunday school teacher and youth director. Whenever they were called upon there was no hesitation to help out.

Austin Thomas, their grandson, is 8 and Dorothy says he is her pride and joy.

Her home, family, and church is her inspiration. She has dedicated her life to make a difference, to be of service. She especially enjoys helping children.

Until 1994, life was good and they were so happy. Then sore throat and stomach problems beset Ernest, but they didn't consider it serious until many tests showed terminal cancer in November, 1994.

They drew closer, telling no one for a while.

After surgery and numerous hospitalizations, he still held on to his faith and looked to his wife, God and his doctors for help and strength. Dorothy says, "he was so courageous, he even tried to keep my spirits up." He told her he trusted her to make decisions of his care - whatever she thought was right.

While in the Memphis hospital, he suffered an attack which Dorothy envisioned as she awakened in the home of Rev. and Mrs. Samuel White. They were so close in mind and heart even to the end. He died in the spring of 1995. A friend, Mrs. Nellie Menzies, says, "He had run his last race with courage and grace. We all are a better people for having known him."

Dorothy always supported her husband in all of his endeavors. She would be called on to carry on the work he had started, to guide their son, and to become a public servant.

This she did willingly and became the first minority woman alderman in the city of Lexington. She says, "My job has been very satisfying helping her fellow citizens and representing the 4th ward." Everyone who knows her applauds her for the good job she is doing.

On July 4, of this year, the Ernest R. Thomas Memorial City Park was commemorated. The park is located beside the Bond-Robinson Community Center. The Montgomery Alumni Association is to be congratulated for the foresight and naming of this project. Dorothy has been chosen to oversee the park and care for it.

On July 25, Ernest R. Thomas and Felicia Easley were married at Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church at 3 p.m. She is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John Easley. Ernest Ray Jr. works as an EMT at American Steel in Jackson. He lighted a special candle in memory of his father at the beginning of the ceremony. Although his father was not there in person, his spirit and love were present, as always.

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