Thomas J. Thackston and family, Beckley, WV

An obituary and a very interesting memoriam of Thomas J. Thackston (son of John Broadus Thackston of Nash Co., NC; grandson of Thomas J. Thackston and great-grandson of William Bell Thackston of Greenville Co., SC; great-great-grandson of James Thackston and Flora Bell of Greenville Co., SC, and Montgomery Co., AL; great-great-great-grandson of William Thackston and Margaret — of Lunenburg Co., VA, and Greenville Co., SC; great-great-great-great-grandson of James Thackston and Mary Wimbish of Prince Edward Co., VA). From the Raleigh Register (WV), 14 Feb 1947:

Thackston Rites Being Held Today

Funeral services will be conducted this afternoon at 2:30 o’clock at the First Christian Church for Thomas J. Thackston, 36, instructor at the Stoco High School.  Thackston died at the Raleigh General Hospital Wednesday night.

Dr. Ritchie Ware will officiate at services, and burial will be in Sunset Memorial Park.  [Text is omitted from the original, apparently a list of pallbearers] Lucas, C. D. Munson, Sherman Trail, Virgil Sarrett, Clarence Mutheren, Eugene L. Scott, Basil Bower, Russell Feazell, Ray Sigmund and B. L. Dozier.

Honorary pallbearers will be members of the Sunday School class at the First Christian Church.

Surviving besides his wife, Wanda Marie Thackston, and his parents, Mr. and Mrs. J. B. Thackston, of Rocky Mount, N.C., are a nine year old son, Johnnie, and a sister, Mrs. J. B. Herring, of Rocky Mount, N.C.


From the Raleigh Register (WV), 01 May 1947, a remarkably detailed memoriam of Thomas J. Thackston, which appears to have been written by the aunt who raised him.  (Note:  the ancestral James Thackston mentioned did die in Farmville, Virginia, but it has now been confirmed that this James was not Lt. Col. James Thackston, who was a son of James and a brother of Thomas J. Thackston’s ancestor William Thackston.)

MEMORIAM [photograph]

IN MEMORY OF THOMAS J. THACKSTON, who passed away February 13, 1947.

These lines are dedicated to his nine year old son, John Broadus Thackston, III, who is now a pupil in the Institute School, Beckley, West Virginia, and to the students and friends at Stoco High School who loved him and mourned his passing.

Thomas J. Thackston was born in Greenville, South Carolina, February 6 [difficult to read, could be 5], 191, son of Mr. and Mrs. John Broadus Thackston now of Rocky Mount, North Carolina.  In early boyhood, Thomas became ill and continued so for six years.  His parents placed him in the care of his father’s sister who as a trained nurse.  During those six years of illness, Thomas became so fond of his aunt that when his parents went to take him to their home, the child went again into unconsciousness.  When the parents realized the heart-breaking situation, they laid their son on a divan saying, “Son, it’s not your fault that you love your Auntie so, and we now promise that we will not disturb you again,” and for twenty-six years he remained with his aunt.

Thomas’s father is endowed with the most unusual loveable disposition which gives cheer and happiness to all who know him.  His name, John Broadus Thackston, was given him from the late Dr. John A. Broadus who was president of the Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, Dr. Broadus was a guest in the Thackston home the night the baby was born.

Thomas’s mother was a very handsome woman and a relative of the late William Jennings Bryant [sic].

As a small child, Thomas was unlike other children of his age–exceedingly matter-of-fact.  When he was four years old an Easter basket with a rabbit sitting on eggs was sent to him.  He asked if the rabbit laid the eggs, and was told the Easter story and the myth of Easter rabbits.  He then asked his aunt to buy a hen to take the place of the rabbit.

He loathed quarrels as a small child and that dislike stuck to him throughout his life.

When he was seven years old, two little brothers from the city were often at his suburban home.  These brothers quarrelled with each other.  On one occasion when Thomas could not bear their disputes he left them saying, “I’m going away ’til you fellows shut up.”

When the Shetland pony which was bought for Thomas would not let a colored boy ride him, he asked how he could teach the pony kindness.

When Thomas was old enough to understand, he was told something of his ancestors.  Lt. Col. James Thackston of Revolutionary activities died in Farmville, Virginia.  Thomas was interested, but when he had read a copy of Lt. Col. James Thackston’s will, which is recorded in Farmville, Virginia, in he willed to Mary, his daughter, a Negro girl named Jude, etc., to his son, William, a Negro fellow named James, etc., Thomas remarked, “I’m glad that we have progressed from that age.”  Since Thomas came to Beckley, he requested that the family be preserved, not, as he said, that it was so important to him, but that he wished his son to have it, and to know though far removed that there was at least one preacher among the forebears.

Lancelot Thackston was a chaplain in King Edward the VI of England who bestowed the family Coat Of Arms.

Educated in Oxford University, Thomas’s paternal great grandfather spent his life teaching school in Virginia and South Carolina.

Thomas’s entire life was rich in experience.  From early boyhood he was religiously inclined.  In high school he distinguished himself all the way through–winning first prize in State Chemistry contest.  His essay in this contest was printed in book form and used as a text in Parker District high school.

While in high school, he decided to earn some pocket money and to follow in the footsteps of many successful business men who began their careers as newspaper carriers.  Rarely did he return from delivering papers that his paper bag did not contain a flower or a plant given him by some patron who knew of his love for plant life.

When he was graduating from Furman University, the late Dr. Ives, who was his Biology teacher and very close to Thomas, was offering congratulations to his aunt; his aunt jokingly replied, “But one can’t always predict the future of boys.”  Dr. Ives responded with this remark, “Anyone who finds the joy in the heart of a flower that Thomas finds can never go far wrong.”

Thomas took the four year course at Furman University in three years.  An honor student in B.S., member of Chi Beta Phi, Cloister and Glee Club.

He took his Master’s degree at Duke University–honor student again, Member of Kappa Delta Pi National Honorary Fraternity in Education.

He married in 1936 one of the most efficient school teachers of Beckley, and had the joy of living with his bride in the lovely home in Greenville, South Carolina, where he was reared and which he loved more than any other place.

His friends in Greenville, knew him as the happiest young fellow in the city.  Often the mothers whose daughters he dated called over the telephone to say they loved to hear his happy laughter in their drawing rooms.

He was a most versatile person–turning from one thing to another skillfully and often remarking, “Whatsoever they hand findeth to do, do it with thy might.”  He refused vacations.  Between school sessions, one summer he was engraver for the Beckley Newspapers Corporation.  The next summer he worked at a filling station.  No job was too hard or tiresome.

An injury in his left hand, caused by an explosion in a chemical laboratory, exempted him from service in World War II, but he entered defense work in a laboratory where his ideas for improvements were accepted in many cases.

His brother, John Broadus Thackston II, went down with his plane into the Mediterranean.

The death of Thomas J. Thackston was so strange–one so young and so useful, and one trying so desperately to adjust himself to the world in which he found himself.

Some one remarked recently, “I seem to hear him singing or playing those popular songs which he composed so readily.”

Among many poems written and filed by Thomas J. Thackston, the following expressing faith somewhat lifts the cross from the one who was with him from the cradle to the grave and may give faith to others who are bereaved.  This poem is a tribute to the late Dr. Edwin Poteat, once president of Furman University and adored by Thomas.

He looked on life and death as one,

        Looked face to face with head unbowed,

Saw both were instruments of God,

        Saw greater glories lying just beyond the shroud.

 He knew his Christ as friend to friend,

         And never failed to make it known,

By word of mouth and shining deed,

         The most unworthy was his own.

Christ stood resplendent at his side,

         For every man to see,

At home, abroad, in foreign lands,

         I know it’s true for it was shown to me.

He is not dead, nor does he sleep,

         But tells of Christ who died to save,

In much more striking words than e’er before,

         He too finds no barrier in rescue lost,

         By confines of the grave.

                                                   T. J. Thackston

The accompanying photograph is as his friends in Greenville, South Carolina, knew him.


Thomas’s widow Wanda Lilly Thackston, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Hubert Erskin Lilly, was later remarried to Charles Lawrence Wiseman, son of Mr. and Mrs. C. L. Wiseman, on 27 Jun 1952 at her parents’ home in Raleigh Heights, West Virginia.  (“Mrs. Wanda Lilly Thackston Marries C. W. [sic] Wiseman, Jr., in Home Rites,” Beckley Post-Herald, 28 Jun 1952 – note: the article correctly identifies the groom as Charles Lawrence Wiseman).

In 1958, the NCAA amended its college football substitution rules to allow the use of kicking specialists.  Thomas’s son, John Broadus Thackston III, then a senior at West Virginia, applied for the team, and became the Mountaineers’ leading scorer that season.  Thackston, known as Honest John Thackston, weighed only 156 pounds and did not wear protective padding.  (“Beckleyan May be WV PAT Specialist,” Raleigh Register, 14 Apr 1959; “Mounties’ Spirit Was Never Better,” Charleston Gazette, 08 Sep 1959; “Thackston Saves 2 Games for WVU,” Raleigh Register, 05 Oct 1959; “Thackston Would Have Been Handy in 1958,” Charleston Daily Mail, 05 Oct 1959; “Peterson Ranks Next to Krutko,” Beckley Post-Herald, 27 Nov 1959.)  John married Judith Diane McKay, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Richard McKay of Morgantown, on 24 Nov 1961 at the Wesley Methodist Church in Beckley, West Virginia (“Thackston-McKay Wedding Read in Morgantown Church Ceremony,” Raleigh Register, 28 Nov 1961)


Thomas’s death record:


and his father, John Broadus Thackston, 09 Jan 1948:



From the Raleigh Register, 20 Aug 1995:

Wanda Wiseman

1 Comment

Filed under Death record, Marriage, News, Obituary

One response to “Thomas J. Thackston and family, Beckley, WV

  1. Liz

    Thomas J. Thackston’s date of birth is 7 Dec. 1910 on his death certificate. His cousin’s dob was 5 Feb.; maybe the aunt who wrote the memorial was confused.

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