This blog post was written by Graduate Assistant Emma Whipkey, master’s student in Museum Studies.
The Baylor University Collections of Political Material contains the papers of Bob L. Thomas, who served as Justice of the Tenth Court of Appeals in Waco.
Bob L. Thomas was born on February 27, 1937 in Hill County, Texas and in 1941 moved to Waco. He was a promising track athlete at age 15, but contracted Polio the same year. The disease affected his legs and left Thomas wheelchair-bound for the rest of his life. His disability did not deter him. In 1955, Bob Thomas graduated from Waco High School and attended Baylor University. He received a BBA in Accounting and went on to graduate first in his class at Baylor Law School in 1960.
In addition to his law practice, Thomas served as a state legislator from 1967-1970, but ceased both occupations after he was elected as County Judge of McLennan County. In 1982, he became a Justice of the Tenth Court of Appeals.
Bob Thomas was incredibly dedicated to his community and the city of Waco declared September 26, 1968 as “Bob Thomas Day” and asked citizens of Waco to “join with the Texas Bar Association and the Waco Jaycees in honoring State Representative Bob Thomas for his outstanding contributions as a member of the house Criminal Jurisprudence Committee working on revisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure.” Thomas’s disability never stopped him from reaching his goals but it did influence his life. He authored the Texas Architectural Barriers Bill passed in 1969, which “set standards and specifications for buildings constructed with the aid of public funds and called for making such structures easily accessible to aged and handicapped persons.”
Thomas was a member of the Task Force assigned to revise the Texas Mental Health Code and a consultant to the Commissioner of Texas Rehabilitation Commission, both of which were appointed positions. His dedication to his community earned him recognition throughout the state of Texas and the country, and he was named by the United States Jaycees as one of America’s 10 Outstanding Men of 1973.