Roosevelt Thomas – Pioneer, Thought Leader and Guru of Corporate Diversity
Pioneer, thought leader and expert of corporate diversity died May 17, 2013 in Decatur at age 69.
Edmund Morris has written three fascinating volumes on TR, yet was often confused by his contradictory nature. TR was both an advocate for peace and an opponent to policies which led to the destruction of Native American culture and communities.
Early Life and Education
Roosevelt belonged to New York society’s upper echelons. His father was a glassware merchant while his mother descended from southern “aristocracy”.
Roosevelt stood up against political bosses and big business interests despite his privilege upbringing, attacking what he called “wealthy criminal class” and criticizing monopolistic railroads as monopolies.
In 1900, he ran for governor of New York and won. An energetic campaigner with high-pitched vocals and an outstretched jaw, he championed matters large and small alike.
Roosevelt graduated with distinction from Morehouse College Phi Beta Kappa and Summa Cum Laude, earned an MBA at the University of Chicago and then received his doctorate degree from Harvard – which one of his fraternity brothers nicknamed as “The Morehouse of the North.” Additionally he studied law at Notre Dame.
Thomas was widely recognized as “the father of diversity” within his industry and assisted businesses in taking diversity to new levels through consulting for Fortune 500 companies, professional firms, government entities and non-profit organizations as well as speaking at national conferences and industry seminars.
World Class Diversity Management, Building on the Promise of Diversity and Redefining Diversity are among his seven books published. Additionally, he contributed several articles such as an essay in March-April 1990 Harvard Business Review entitled From Affirmative Action to Affirming Diversity which informed corporate America of their responsibility in effectively using their diverse workforces.
His interests outside of work included his family and friends, hosting a massive New Year’s Eve bash, and playing the guitar.
Achievement and Honors
Thomas was an authoritative voice on diversity management concepts and strategies, pioneering groundbreaking articles such as From Affirmative Action to Affirming Diversity published in Harvard Business Review March-April 1990 that signalled to corporate America that EEO compliance had reached its limits and it was time to move beyond EEO compliance compliance.
He was an accomplished writer, contributing regularly to periodicals and trade publications including ASTD’s World Class Diversity Management and co-authoring the seminal book Beyond Race and Gender: Unleashing Your Total Workforce Through Diversity Management.
On Tuesday afternoon in Cassopolis, Roosevelt Thomas stood before his familiar courtroom – where he had long been an esteemed trial lawyer – but not to present a case or demonstrate courtroom showmanship; rather he was here to accept an award from colleagues and friends of his.
Roosevelt Thomas was an early innovator and thought leader in Corporate Diversity Management. For 28 years he was at the forefront of creating innovative concepts and strategies to maximize organizational and individual potential through diversity. During that time he advised numerous Fortune 500 corporations, professional firms, government entities, non-profit organizations and academic institutions as well as speaking at national conferences and industry seminars.
He graduated with honors from Morehouse College with both Phi Beta Kappa and Summa Cum Laude degrees, was an avid sports fan, played guitar, enjoyed entertaining family and friends and hosted an annual Jumbo Bash celebration for New Year’s Eve at his home – an annual Jumbo Bash at his house was one of his favorite celebrations! A loving husband, father and brother; he passed away peacefully in Decatur GA at age 69 on May 17, 2013.
Roosevelt Thomas advised Fortune 500 companies, professional firms, government entities and non-profit organizations. He frequently presented at leadership, management and diversity conferences and appeared as a guest on national radio and TV talk shows; additionally contributing articles to several publications.
Roosevelt Thomas Consulting and Training was led by its founder and CEO Roosevelt Thomas himself, helping hundreds of companies and thousands of people through its corporate diversity and inclusion work.
He was the fifth cousin twice removed of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and first cousin to NBA star Isaiah Thomas, both living in Tacoma, Washington. A published author, he lectured frequently on how organizations can maximize performance through diversity management strategies. Furthermore, he served on the board of directors of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation.