Ohio — Jefferson Thomas, who as a teenager was among nine black students to integrate a Little Rock high school in the nation’s first major battle over school segregation, has died. He was 67.
Thomas died Sunday in Ohio of pancreatic cancer, according to a Monday statement from Carlotta Walls LaNier, who also enrolled at Central High School in 1957 and is president of the Little Rock Nine Foundation.
The integration fight was a first real test of the federal government’s resolve to enforce a 1954 Supreme Court order outlawing racial segregation in the nation’s public schools.
Each of the Little Rock Nine received Congressional Gold Medals shortly after the 40th anniversary of their enrollment.
Former president Bill Clinton issued a statement Monday, calling Thomas “a true hero, a fine public servant, and profoundly good man.”