John Lovell Thomas ’48 died on June 11, 2005, in Providence, Rhode Island.
Born on October 28, 1926, in Portland, he prepared for college at Waterville High School and became a member of Alpha Delta Phi Fraternity at Bowdoin, which he entered in 1944. Following his graduation cum laude in 1947 as a member of the Class of 1948, he taught for a year at Washington Academy in East Machias and studied for a year at Columbia University in New York, from which he received his master of arts degree in 1950. During 1949-50, he taught at Deerfield Academy and then spent four years teaching at Barnard College in New York. He taught history at Brown University from 1955 to 1960, and received his doctor of philosophy degree. After teaching at Harvard University for three years, he returned to Brown, where he remained until his retirement in 2002 as the George L. Littlefield Professor of American History. In 1961, he received the Allan Nevins Prize for the best doctoral dissertation in American history during that year from the Society of American Historians. Entitled Isaiah to the Nation, it is a biography of William Lloyd Garrison, editor of the Liberator and a pioneer American abolitionist. The book won him the 1964 Bancroft Prize in American History. In 1986, he received Bowdoin’s Distinguished Educator Award. He was a Guggenheim Fellow in 1967, a Fellow of the National Institute for the Humanities at the University of Chicago in 1977-78, and a Woodrow Wilson Fellow in 1982. Following his retirement in 2002, he continued to teach and mentor students. He was married in 1951 to Patricia Ann Blake, who died in 1992, and is survived by a son, John B. Thomas; a daughter, Jayn L. Thomas; and two grandchildren.