In Memoriam: James A. Thomas

James A. Thomas

James ThomasJames (Jim) Thomas (right in photo) tirelessly supported the Izaak Walton League since he helped found the Harford County Chapter more than 60 years ago. He served as the League’s National Secretary from 1966 to 1968 and was inducted into the Izaak Walton League national Hall of Fame in 2010.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Jim Thomas in 2012 as part of the League’s 90th anniversary celebration. At that time, he told me he was the last living charter member of the Harford County Chapter. He talked fondly about all the national conventions he had attended, including one held in Washington, DC, at which Dr. Preston Bradley (one of the League’s 54 founders) got everyone so “riled up” that all the delegates left the meeting and went straight to Capitol Hill to talk to their members of Congress.

“One thing that stood out to me at conventions was voting on resolutions — it was exciting,” Jim said. “We used to have 18 to 22 resolutions every year. I was disappointed the last time that there were only three — it was all over with so quickly!”

Jim chaired his chapter’s Save Our Streams Committee, which monitored two to three streams every year, as well as the Conservation Committee. I asked Jim whether people’s attitudes about conservation had changed over the years, and he said that people “don’t feel as strongly about conservation today as a few years ago. We don’t hear much today about water pollution, but our water quality is not good!” He remembered drinking water straight from the Susquehanna River when he went fishing there in the 1950s. “The water was clear. I wouldn’t do it today!”

When I asked him about issues that have been core to the organization, Jim replied that “water pollution has to be number one. Water runoff is a big problem all over the country. Look at the Chesapeake Bay as an example. Years ago you could see a crab at the bottom in five feet of water. Now you can’t even see one foot down.” When I talked with him, Jim said he still fished locally for trout and went out fishing on the Chesapeake Bay at least once a month.

He urged chapters to get involved in conservation issues at the state level. “We’ve gotten away from pro-active outreach to state legislators. Local chapters have got to get some programs going.”

Dawn Merritt, IWLA Communications Director