CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- James R. Thomas II, a longtime Charleston business owner and philanthropist, died Wednesday at the age of 87.
Thomas was the first chairman of the board of Charleston Renaissance Corp., an organization formed to help downtown Charleston rebound after it was seriously hurt by the opening of the Charleston Town Center mall and other factors in the early 1980s. Charleston Renaissance was later merged with other similar groups to form the Charleston Area Alliance.
Thomas' grandfather was among those who founded the coal company Carbon Industries Inc. In 1977, IT&T bought the company. Thomas left the company several years later and joined Charleston Renaissance.
Thomas was born in November 1925 and served in the U.S. Army from 1944 to 1946, according to the Junior Achievement of West Virginia Business Hall of Fame, where he was inducted in 2003. He served on the boards of One Valley Bank, Columbia Energy and Shoney's.
He also served as president of the Carbon Fuel Foundation, which donated thousands of dollars to West Virginia colleges, among other beneficiaries. He was one of the first winners of the annual Spirit of the Valley award given by the Charleston YMCA.
When he received that award in 1991, Thomas deflected credit in an interview with the Gazette-Mail. "The greatest thing was to surround myself with people as eager as I was, and that made all the difference," he said.
Thomas served on the boards of several community and educational agencies, including the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences, the University of Charleston, the United Way of Central West Virginia and the Buckskin Council of the Boy Scouts of America.
Funeral arrangements, being handled by Barlow Bonsall Funeral Home in Charleston, were incomplete on Wednesday.