Edith Thomas, major civic arts promoter, dies at 93

THOMAS

THOMAS

By Joe Rutherford

Daily Journal

TUPELO – Edith Ruff Thomas, a founding corporate director of both the Tupelo Community Theatre and the Tupelo Symphony Orchestra, died Wednesday at Camfield Manor, her Tupelo residence. She was 93.

Thomas’ wide-ranging civic work started soon after returning to Tupelo in 1950 after her husband, Dr. P.K. Thomas Jr., completed his medical residency in Birmingham. She soon became one of the city’s most active promoters of good causes, especially in the performing and visual arts.

She was named Junior Auxiliary Citizen of the Year in 1987, Tupelo’s signal civic honor.

Her longtime friend and colleague in work, symphony executive manager Margaret Ann Murphey, said Thomas was a charter signer for the symphony and became a mainstay of ticket sales and fundraising, especially in the medical community.

“She would call or visit each doctor individually and explain why it was important to support the symphony because it was for the good of the community, and she was persistent. P.K. would back her up with his own visits if the doctors didn’t respond,” Murphey said.

Doyce Deas, who worked with Thomas on behalf of the symphony and the theater, said Thomas’ large breakfast room table was almost always covered with big boxes from which she worked the ticket lists and other business.

“She sold all the tickets for the theater – all of them,” when TCT first organized, Deas said.

On her retirement, TCT named Thomas a director emeritus.

Deas said Thomas sold countless thousands of tickets for the causes in which she worked.

“She was a tenacious supporter, and you know, Edith would tell you what you were expected to do, and you did it. She as a very persuasive person and a tireless worker,” Deas sad.

Thomas and her family also were major benefactors of HealthWorks!.

Thomas also was active in support of the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Tupelo Public Schools and in for her alma mater, Mississippi University for Women.

Funeral services are set for 3 p.m. Monday at First Presbyterian Church. She is survived by three children, a daughter-in-law, and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

joe.rutheford@journalinc.com