This community lost one of its most respected citizens early Saturday afternoon when Suffragan Bishop Elzy H. Thomas, the pastor of Christ Temple Church for more than a half century, died at his home on Central Avenue with his loving wife of more than 58 years at his side.
There are many positive things that could be said about Elzy Thomas. but we wonder how he would like to be remembered.
First of all, we think he would want to be remembered as a servant of God. His creator always came first in the life of Elzy Thomas. He gladly stood in the background and lifted his God high. It was never about him; it was always about God.
In the early years of his ministry, Christ Temple was in a small building on Greenup Avenue with just a handful of members. But Thomas had a vision for the church, and we will never forget that Sunday many years ago, when the church had its final service on Greenup Avenue and the congregation marched to its new home in the old Ashland High School and Coles Junior High School on Lexington Avenue. At the time, the old school, which had been vacant since the Coles and Putnam junior highs had mergered into George M. Verity Middle School in the early 1980s, was deteriorating and on the verge of becoming something of an eyesore. Today, the school has been renovated into a beautiful church, and Thomas and his congregation earned the praise and thanks of the entire community because of what they did to save the building where scores of area residents went to either high school or junior high school.
For most of his years at Christ Temple, Thomas was a bivocational pastor. His “day job” was at Armco Steel’s Ashland Works, where he retired after 35 years, and that was the job that helped him feed his large family, But Thomas’ first love — his “calling” — was always preaching the word of God. As far as he was concerned God was his “boss.” It also is a tribute to the leadership of Thomas that Christ Temple is one of the most racially mixed congregations in this region. While the majority of its congregation is black, it is not a “black church”; it is a church of Christian brothers and sisters of all races.
Elzy Thomas would also want to be remembered as a loving husband and father. Elzy and Margaret Thomas raised seven daughters in this modest Central Avenue home near Dawson Pool, and it is a tribute to their skills as parents that all seven grew up to be the type of children that make parents proud. At a time when many families are collapsing and the divorce rate is soaring, Elzy and Margaret Thomas were shining examples of what it means to be committed leaders of their family. Sadly, his only son, Elzy Thomas Jr., did not live long, but the seven daughters, 17 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren Elzy Thomas leaves behind are all beneficiaries of his commitment to being a Christian father and leader of his family. We need more men like him.
Outside of Christ Temple, Thomas, a member of the First Apostolic Council of Kentucky and Tennessee, served at different times as Young Peoples president, Christian Education auxiliary director, council vice chairman, council chairman, elder, district elder and executive board member. In 1996 he was appointed suffragan bishop.
In this community, Thomas, a Kentucky colonel, was a member of the Hack Estep Home board and a blood drive donor. He was honored by the NAACP in 1997 with the Community Service Award and honored by the Booker T. Washington Sports Committee in 2007.
Elzy Thomas was never a black leader who stood on a platform to protest the injustices his people encountered in life. He was not one to lead marches. Instead, Elzy Thomas was a man who led by example, and what an example it was.
We will miss Elzy Thomas’ piano playing and singing. We will miss his commitment to God. But those of us who knew him are all blessed for knowing a great man who knew no hatred and had no prejudices, who never held grudges or said words in anger, and who first and foremost was a man of God.