Sammie June Thomas, Mayor of Patterson from 2006-2012 and longtime math and science teacher, passed away Wednesday, Oct. 6. She was just one day shy of her 85th birthday.
George Denison, a former Patterson Mayor himself and one of Thomas’ former students, said Thomas was someone who was gifted at leadership and molding people to reach his or her full potential.
“Miss Sammie June could just read people and know what their gifts were and knew how to encourage them and get them to do their best,” Denison said.
Denison said Thomas helped him when he was a state FFA officer in high school.
“She has always been my friend and she has always been a big help to me,” he said.
Denison said Thomas encouraged him to run for Patterson City Council, a role he held for 20 years. He eventually succeeded Thomas in the mayor’s office when she resigned due to health reasons.
Thomas retired after a long career in education. She first taught at her alma mater, Patterson High, and later at Pierce County High. She also served as public relations coordinator for the school system and was one of the founders of and worked with the adult literacy program through Okefenokee Technical College.
Retired school superintendent Dr. Joy Williams said Thomas’ work with the adult literacy program transformed many lives.
“She especially wanted the GED program to focus on young women,” she said. “I can’t tell you how many of those ladies came back to say what a profound impact that had on their lives in being able to get a better job and have a better life. Miss Sammie June had the vision to see and know that.”
Williams recalls Thomas was just “fun to be around.”
“She had a great sense of humor and was very creative,” she said. “She had a rich background of experiences and she used that to help people. She was very community minded and wanted what was good for all of us.”
One of Thomas’ former students, June Winn Thomas, said S. Thomas had motivated her — and countless other students — to excel and believe in themselves.
She believed in her students(.) She was my teacher and later my teaching colleague and mentor,” said Thomas. “Miss Sammie June Thomas was a mastermind of most every subject. I thought she was a genius because she could do anything. She was an exemplary teacher who instilled in her students a drive to become a better person. She taught by example. She helped any child no matter the socio-economic background or learning ability. She met students at the fairgrounds on Saturday or Sunday to “help” them display their FHA and 4-H booths to give them a polished appearance. She assisted fellow teachers in various ways whether it was preparing food for an event, completing applications or decorating a door or parade float.”
After her education career, Thomas served on the Patterson City Council and later became mayor, succeeding Petesy Barnard, who died in office in January 2006. Thomas ran and was elected to a term in her own right in 2009 and served until stepping down in 2012.
Thomas is credited with obtaining the rights to the old Patterson High School for use as the new City Hall and public venue now known as Eagle Station.
Thomas recalls that as Mayor, S. Thomas rallied the Eagle alumni to save the old Patterson High School as Eagle Station.
“When she was mayor, she invited a member of each class to help with the PHS Eagle Station restoration. Working with her in mayoral role to save our alma mater was one of the most rewarding opportunities. Due to her perseverance, Patterson now hosts some of the most incredible events in the county. Her vision and forethought along with outstanding organizational skills has enhanced the “Patterson Proud” motto as the Eagle Station project has neared completion.”
She also was instrumental in relaunching the Spirit of Liberty celebration for Independence Day, though it was eventually discontinued after she left office.
Until recently, she had been actively serving on the Patterson Downtown Committee.
Funeral arrangements will be with Edo Miller and Sons Funeral Home of Brunswick.
A private, family only service is planned.
For a death notice, please see page 3.