“Pioneer, thought leader and guru of managing diversity” is how family, friends and colleagues remembered Dr. R. Roosevelt Thomas Jr., a well-known diversity leader, who died on May 17, 2013 in Decatur, Georgia. He was 69.
Dr. Thomas was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Well-known for his work in corporate diversity, for over 28 years he was at the forefront of developing and implementing innovative concepts and strategies for maximizing organizational and individual potential through diversity management.
He served as CEO of Roosevelt Thomas Consulting & Training, Inc., Decatur, Georgia. Thomas helped develop and implement the Coca-Cola Co.’s Diversity Leadership Training Academy of Atlanta in 2000, and was constantly sought out by businesses looking to change their corporate culture.
He was the author of seven published books; the most recent, World Class Diversity Management: A Strategic Approach. Dr. Thomas consulted with numerous Fortune 500 companies, professional firms, government entities, non-profit organizations, and academic institutions, and he spoke frequently at national conferences and industry seminars.
Prior to establishing his pioneering American Institute for Managing Diversity in 1984, a nonprofit research and educational organization, Thomas served as secretary of Morehouse College, dean of the Graduate School of Business Administration at Atlanta University, assistant professor at the Harvard Business School, and instructor at Morehouse College.
A former Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) board member, Thomas worked with SHRM to launch the largest U.S.-based study on the state of diversity management, which was published in January of 2008 under the title SHRM 2007 State of Workplace Diversity Management Report: A Call to Action. He joined the SHRM board of directors in 2003 for a two-year term.
“He was one of the first thought leaders to really start writing about diversity management,” said Shirley Davis, SPHR, vice president of diversity and inclusion at SHRM. “He was a big supporter of the work we did for diversity and inclusion.”
He was recognized by The Wall Street Journal as one of the top ten consultants in the country, elected as a Fellow by the National Academy of Human Resources, cited by Human Resource Executive as one of HR’s Most Influential People, awarded the “Distinguished Contribution to Human Resources Development” Award by the American Society of Training and Development, honored with the “Trailblazers in Diversity” Award by Bennett College, and designated an Inaugural “Legends of Diversity” Honoree by the International Society of Diversity and Inclusion Professionals.
Dr. Thomas held a D.B.A. in Organizational Behavior from Harvard University Graduate School of Business Administration; a M.B.A. in Finance from the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business Administration; and a B.A. in Mathematics from Morehouse College.
His funeral at Friendship Baptist in Atlanta, Georgia was attended by an overflow of church members, family, and diversity practitioners from around the country. His survivors include his wife of 42 years, Judge Ruby J. Thomas; sons, Shane Thomas and Jarred Thomas; daughter, April Thomas; grandson, Montre’ Thomas; brother, Robert Potts Thomas (Carol); nephews, Robert Potts Thomas, Jr. and Jason Thomas; cousins, Nola Potts and Marla Potts; a host of other nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.