Skip to main content

Dr. Arthur E. Thomas, President Emeritus, Central State University, Collection (MS-667)

Identifier: MS-667

Scope and Contents

The collection contains personal papers, legal documents and court proceedings, photographs, audio and video recordings, news clippings, awards and certificates, correspondence, and other materials relating to Dr. Thomas’s life and career in education and civil rights activism. The collection includes a significant amount of analog audiovisual material, including recordings of most episodes of Thomas’s interview program “Like It Is.”

Series I, III-V contain mostly paper documents, arranged semi-chronologically according to Dr. Thomas’s career. Series VI-X are format-based, containing any newspaper clippings, awards, audiovisual items (with the exception of “Like It Is” items which are in Series II), photographs, and memorabilia for the collection.

Series I: Biographical and Personal, contains biographical narratives and timelines, resumes, oral histories with Dr. Thomas, and various mementoes or correspondence concerning Dr. Thomas’s personal life. It also includes a few items related to Dr. Thomas’s mother, Janie, to whom he was very close. Materials in this series date between 1961 and 2019.

Series II: “Like It Is” Television Program, is the largest series in the collection, consisting of materials related to the weekly television program “Like It Is” that Dr. Thomas produced from 1978 to 1985. On the show, Dr. Thomas interviewed leaders known for civil rights activism and for overcoming race and gender barriers, such as James H. McGee, Louis Stokes, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Maya Angelou, and Rosa Parks. This series consists almost entirely of audiovisual material in various formats, including Umatic and VHS videotapes, as well as reel-to-reel and audiocassette audio recordings. Some of these recordings have been digitized and are already available for access. Positively dated materials in this series date between 1977 and 1983.

Series III: Early Career, consists of materials related to Dr. Thomas’s early career (prior to his work at Central State University) with the Dayton Public Schools, Model Cities Education Program, and the Center for the Study of Student Citizenship, Rights, and Responsibilities (usually called simply the “Student Rights Center” in Dayton). This series includes publications, reports, and legal proceedings. It also includes copies of testimony given by Dr. Thomas before The Select Committee on Equal Educational Opportunity of the U.S. Senate in 1971. There are no materials concerning Dr. Thomas’s time at the Wright State University Bolinga Center in this series, however. Materials in this series date between 1969 and 1973.

Series IV: Central State University includes materials related to Dr. Thomas’s time in the Administration at Central State University, where he was Vice President for Academic Affairs (1977-1985), then served as University President (1985-1995). This series overall includes materials from the time period 1971 to 2015. (Some of the material either pre-dates or post-dates Dr. Thomas’s time of employment but is related to events that took place during that time and is therefore included.) This series is divided into several subseries:

Subseries IV-A: Inauguration includes letters of recommendation for Dr. Arthur E. Thomas for the CSU presidency, as well as a copy of his inaugural speech in October 1985.

Subseries IV-B: Reports and Programs includes President’s Reports and other summary annual reports (1985-1994), then is followed by other reports and handbooks in roughly chronological order. These documents included strategic plans, program descriptions and reports, student handbooks, mission statements, task force reports, Title IV Financial Aid Program issues, etc. Materials in this subseries date from 1975 to 1997.

Subseries IV-C: Press Releases, contains official Central State University press releases dating between 1989 and 1991.

Subseries IV-D: Correspondence, includes correspondence concerning Central State University, arranged chronologically by year. The overall span dates for this subseries are 1971 to 2015, though the bulk of the material is between 1987 and 2000.

Subseries IV-E: Trips, includes files about Dr. Thomas’s travel during his tenure as University President, including many international trips, especially to African nations. Travel destinations in this subseries include Ghana, Japan, Kenya, Korea, Senegal, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Materials in this subseries date from 1987 to 1994.

Subseries IV-F: Legal, includes Dr. Thomas’s Testimony for Reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, Title III, in the U.S. House of Representatives (1985), materials concerning special audits and investigations (such as a Title VI civil rights investigation) at Central State University during Dr. Thomas’s time as president, and legal actions between the University and Dr. Thomas himself. Materials in this subseries date from 1985 to 2000.

Series V: Later Career, includes materials from Dr. Thomas’s work with the U.S. President's Board of Advisors on Historically Black Colleges and Universities; his work with the Union Institute; his work with the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO), including the NAFEO/Kellogg Leadership Fellows program; work at Morgan State University; and general speaking engagements. Materials in this series date between 1995 and 2020.

Series VI: Newspaper Clippings, consists of newspaper clippings relating primarily to Dr. Thomas’s life and activities and to a lesser extent subjects of interest to him. Materials in this series date from 1966 to 2018.

Series VII: Honors and Awards, consists of awards certificates; a small number of original, three-dimensional plaques or awards; and digitized surrogates of other three-dimensional plaques and awards. Materials in this series date from about 1971 to 2019.

Series VIII: General Audiovisual, includes all other audio and video media besides the “Like It Is” recordings, including Central State University events, such as convocations or graduations, speaking engagements, etc. Materials in this series date from about 1976 to about 1998.

Series IX: Photographs, Albums, and Scrapbooks, includes photographs documenting Dr. Thomas’s personal life, his career, and his travels. There are many albums of photographs from his time at Central State University, as well as photos with celebrities and public figures, including multiple U.S. Presidents, Rev. Jesse Jackson, and Bill Cosby. Of particular note are two album boxes of family photographs, dating back to Dr. Thomas’s childhood and earlier, including photos of family members in Philadelphia and South Carolina. Another notable grouping are the photos from Dr. Thomas’s trips abroad, particularly many photos from visits to Africa and Korea. Materials in this series date from roughly 1920 to 2020.


  • Creation: circa 1920 - 2020
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1969 - 2000


Conditions Governing Access

There are no donor-imposed restrictions on accessing material in this collection. However, due to various preservation and logistical issues relevant to this collection, the following access restrictions apply:

Original analog audio and video materials cannot be played in the reading room. Patrons may have access to digitized reference copies (electronic records). Items without existing reference copies can be digitized at the patron’s request for the cost of creating a digital copy. Please contact us at least two (2) weeks in advance if you would like to request an audio or video reference copy.

SOME analog audiovisual items in this collection already have a digitized reference copy; these are indicated by the presence of an e-number (e.g., ms667_e0204), in addition to a box and item number. Researchers are requested to contact us at least two (2) days in advance to request electronic records.

Access to electronic records (indicated by an e-number, e.g., ms667_e0001) in this collection is restricted until they are fully processed. Requests for unprocessed electronic records can be submitted for consideration by contacting us at least two (2) weeks in advance. Archives staff reserve the right to restrict access to files with privacy or confidentiality concerns or to deny requests in which the review period is insufficient, given the volume of records requested and the desired access date. Access to original electronic media is restricted.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright restrictions may apply. Unpublished manuscripts are protected by copyright. Permission to publish, quote, or reproduce must be secured from the repository and the copyright holder.

The donor, Dr. Arthur E. Thomas, has dedicated to the public his own intellectual property rights such as he may possess in the collection materials. However, it should be noted that this collection also contains materials for which the intellectual property rights belong to other people, organizations, or entities, such as Central State University.

Biographical / Historical

Arthur Edward “Art” Thomas was born on June 21, 1938, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His parents were Robert Edward Thomas and Janie (Canty) Thomas, who divorced when Dr. Thomas was very young. Dr. Thomas graduated from Philadelphia’s Overbrook High School in 1956. He enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving two years of active duty (1956-1958) and 4 years of inactive duty during which time he attended Central State University (1958-1962). He graduated from Central State University with a B.S. in Education (History) in 1962. He later earned a M.S. in Educational Administration at Miami University in 1965 and an Ed.D. in Educational Administration from The University of Massachusetts-Amherst in 1971.

Dr. Thomas spent most of his adult life at Central State University (CSU). After graduation, he worked with the Dayton Public Schools, as a teacher and administrator (1962-1968). Simultaneously, he taught Black History at CSU, and served as Director of the Dayton Model Cities Planning Council’s Education project (1969-1970).

From 1970 to 1973, he was the Director of the Center for the Study of Student Citizenship, Rights and Responsibilities (Student Rights Center), which was funded to CSU by the U. S. Office of Equal Opportunity, Legal Services Division, under the Republican U.S. President Richard Nixon Administration. The objective and responsibility of this pilot program was to research, develop and apply strategies for the protection of the rights of children in public schools to a just education. At the time, he was the only non-lawyer leading a Legal Services program in America.

At Wright State University, from 1973 to 1977, Dr. Thomas served as the Director of the Bolinga Black Cultural Resource Center, Assistant Professor of Community Medicine and Assistant Professor of Urban Studies.

In 1977, Dr. Thomas returned to Central State University as Vice President for Academic Affairs, serving in that position until 1985, when he was appointed President of Central State University. He served as President until 1995.

From 1978 to 1985, he produced a weekly television public affairs interview program called “Like It Is,” which aired on the local Dayton television stations WPTD-WPTO 16-14 (PBS) and WHIO 7 (CBS). Notable persons interviewed include: Maya Angelou, poet author, documentary screen writer and producer, civil rights activist; Louis Stokes, attorney, civil rights activist, first African American elected to the US. House of Representatives (served 15 terms); Jesse Jackson, civil rights activist, minister, politician, U.S. Democratic Presidential candidate, founder Of PUSH and the Rainbow Coalition; Nikki Giovanni, Distinguished Professor at Virginia Tech, writer, poet, activist, educator; Parren Mitchell, first African American elected to U.S. House of Representatives from Maryland; Alvin Poussaint, Dean of Students and psychiatrist at the Harvard University School of Medicine, Bill Cosby Show consultant; Hank Aaron, Baseball Hall of Fame inductee, recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom; and Charles Wesley, first President of Central State University, second African American to receive a Ph.D., from Harvard University and many others.

Dr. Thomas has had strong ties to Operation PUSH, an organization founded by Jesse Jackson to pursue social justice, civil rights, and political activism. For many years, he has also been involved with the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO) in Washington, DC, and has served in several offices within the organization.

Dr. Thomas also has a strong interest in international affairs, particularly Africa. He has visited several countries in Africa and the Middle East and has hosted numerous guests from Africa as well, particularly during his tenure at Central State University.

Note: A detailed resume and two extensive autobiographical emails are available in E-Archive (ms667_e0001 and ms667_e0003).

Dr. Thomas passed away at a hospital in Silver Spring, Maryland, on February 9, 2023.


32.19 linear feet

2.39 Terabytes (ms667_e0204)

Language of Materials





The collection contains personal papers, legal documents and court proceedings, photographs, audio and video recordings, news clippings, awards and certificates, correspondence, and other materials relating to Dr. Thomas’s life and career in education and civil rights activism. The collection includes a significant amount of analog audiovisual material, including recordings of most episodes of Thomas’s interview program “Like It Is.”

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

Electronic files require the use of appropriate computer hardware and software. The digitized reference copies of the audiovisual materials in this collection are in AVI and MP4 format (video) and MP3 format (audio).

Custodial History

Portions of this collection were previously in the custody of the Central State University Archives.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Dr. Arthur E. Thomas, President Emeritus, Central State University, Collection was donated to Wright State University Libraries' Special Collections and Archives by Dr. Arthur E. Thomas in October 2019.


Additional accruals are anticipated. Also, some material already received for this collection has not yet been fully processed.

Related Materials

Central State University Archives

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Lisa Rickey, Toni Vanden Bos, Delaney Dawson (inventorying AV), and Tanya Ellenburg-Kimmet (digitizing plaques and awards), 2020-2022.

Portions of this collection, particularly many electronic records, remain unprocessed.



Guide to the Dr. Arthur E. Thomas, President Emeritus, Central State University, Collection (MS-667)
Lisa Rickey
2022 November
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Several (71) Umatic tapes of the “Like It Is” program were digitized for preservation and access in 2022, thanks to a generous grant from the Ohio Historic Records Advisory Board (OHRAB). This OHRAB (re)grant was funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), an arm of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

Special Collections and Archives
3640 Colonel Glenn Hwy
Dayton OH 45435-0001 USA