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Jerry Thomas

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Jerry Thomas

Jerry Thomas (1929-1980) was born in West Palm Beach, where he graduated from Palm Beach High School (1946) and Palm Beach Junior College (1949). He earned a degree in public administration from Florida State University (1952) while working as an aide in the state legislature, and a master’s in education from Florida State and Florida Atlantic University (1967). During the Korean conflict, Thomas attained the rank of captain in the U.S. Marine Corps.

At the age of twenty-seven, Thomas was director of the Florida Securities Commission. He returned to Palm Beach County with his wife, Jeannie Hair Thomas, and their children. In 1963 he opened First Bank of Jupiter and co-founded one of the state’s first bank holding companies; reorganization of its banks produced First Marine Bank in Riviera Beach in 1967.

Thomas was elected to the Florida House of Representatives 1960-64; in 1961 he won the Allen Morris Award for the most outstanding first-term member and was named “One of Five Outstanding Men of Florida” by the Florida Jaycees. Thomas served in the Florida Senate 1965-72, where he was president 1970-72, and was awarded most outstanding member for four years. He was also named “One of the Top 16 Legislators in the U.S.” by the Citizens Conference of State Legislators in 1971. Thomas’ efforts in the legislature resulted in Florida’s first migrant study commission, higher standards for state colleges, ethics laws, the Florida Sunshine Law, and recognition for his work in conservation. He received the Palm Beach County Good Government Award for 1962-63.

After Thomas left office, he was appointed undersecretary of the Treasury by President Gerald Ford, was chairman of the Economic Council of Palm Beach County, and chief executive officer of First Marine Bank, the county’s largest locally owned banking institution. Thomas was awarded the John D. MacArthur Award by the business community in 1979 and was named an Honorary Doctor of Laws by Flagler College. His memory was honored with the naming of Jerry Thomas Elementary School in Jupiter and the Jerry Thomas Memorial Bridge to Singer Island. A friend and colleague said of Thomas, “He had a deep and abiding love affair with the United States of America.”

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