Dr. Maurice Thornton, known as educator, author, fighter for social change – Spotlight News – The home of The Spot 518


DELMAR — Dr. Maurice Thornton, educator, author and tireless fighter for social change, died on Tuesday, December 14 at the age of 90.

Thornton was educated in high school in his hometown of Birmingham, Alabama at AH Parker High School, the largest such school for African Americans in the world, before eventually earning his doctorate in secondary education. Its historical distinction and social significance have never escaped it.

Thonton became involved in the civil rights movement of the 1960s. In August 1963, he joined over 200,000 people in the March on Washington. It’s a fight he’s dedicated himself to over the years.

Thornton and his family moved to the Capital District in 1982 to serve as Director of Affirmative Action for the State University of New York system. He previously held a similar position at Cuyahoga Community College, where he is believed to have been the first person to hold the title of Affirmative Action Officer at a college or university.

An avid learner with a penchant for reading about history, Thornton joined the 369th Albany’s efforts to earn the Medal of Honor from Sgt. Henry Johnson. Later, after returning home to Alabama to attend his brother-in-law’s funeral, he was inspired to research his own family history.

In 2019, Thornton wrote “The Thornton Family”, charting his family’s story through generations that stretches from the West Coast of Africa to Europe and America. His book touched on the important periods marked by the Great Depression, racial segregation, World War II and more. This story was captured in an article published in The projector This year.

When asked why he felt it was important to find out and write about his family’s origin, Maurice brought up parts of a supposed quote from the classical Greek philosopher Socrates.

“Unless you know yourself, you really don’t live in the world. You have to know yourself and to know yourself you have to know so much about yourself because you are not just yourself. You are also your ancestors all together and it helps to make yourself.

Dr. Maurice Thornton was born in Birmingham, Alabama on December 31, 1930 to Alberta Jones Thornton and William Lee Thornton. He confessed Christ at an early age and joined Bethel Baptist Church in Collegeville. He attended Hudson Elementary School and the historic AH Parker High School. While there, he demonstrated an early interest in American and world history. He finished first in a statewide World and American History Achievement Test and received a plaque for his achievement at Alabama State University. Maurice attended Alabama State University and graduated in 1952 with a major in secondary education. While in college, he worked in the Office of Graduate Studies and was initiated into the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.

He was drafted into the armed forces during the Korean War and for two years served in the medical corps at Fort Jackson, SC. He was honorably discharged as a non-commissioned officer.

Maurice then attended Case Western Reserve and the School of Social Sciences in Cleveland, Ohio. He interned at the Cuyahoga County Department of Social Services and was recruited to work as a social worker at that agency. Maurice became the leader of the Neighborhood Youth Corps. He held the post of Director of Personnel at the Agency. He was later recruited by Cuyahoga Community College to take on the position of Affirmative Action Officer. He was the first person to hold this position at a college or university. To struggle against.

Dr. Thornton took time out of his busy schedule to engage in civil rights activities. He participated in the “Historic March on Washington, DC” in August 1963. While there, he reconnected with the Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth and other members of the Birmingham Civil Rights Struggle (youtube.com 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington).

As a “lifelong learner”, Maurice earned a Masters in Education from Cleveland State University (1973) and a Doctorate in Education from Nova University, Fort Lauderdale, Florida (1981).

In 1982 he came to Albany, New York to become the Director of Affirmative Action for the State University of New York (SUNY) system which includes 64 campuses. He retired in 1998 and served as an Adjunct Professor of African Studies for ten years at the University of Albany, SUNY, and has lectured at Hudson Valley Community College on African-American history, African-American family American and the history of the civil rights movement. In 2010, he retired from Hudson Valley Community College.

His passions and activities include family historian, writer and editor of the Thornton Family legacy Book.

Maurice was a founding member and Grapter of the Albany Chapter of Beta Psi Boule, a founding member of the Albany Chapter of 100 Black Men, Life Member and Vice President of the 369th Veterans Association. Life Member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., Alumnus of Westminster Presbyterian Church, New York State Health Department Data Protection Review Board Member and of the Capital District Council of Churches, and lecturer and book reviewer for the Albany Public Library.

His significant accomplishments include being the first person to hold a full-time position at a college or university in the field of equal opportunity in America and numerous citations and awards in the fields of education and public services.

Maurice, with the Albany 369th, was instrumental in securing the Medal of Honor for Sgt. Henry Johnson posthumously for his heroic deeds during World War I and the erection of a statute honoring Henry Johnson in the city of Albany. In 2015, Dr. Thornton was honored by Congressman Paul Tonko for his contributions in helping Sgt. Johnson to receive the Medal of Honor. Maurice was also proud to attend President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address and was present at the White House when President Obama presented the Medal of Honor to Sgt. Henry Johnson’s family.

Maurice is survived by his wife of 61 years, Elizabeth “Betty”, two daughters, Karen Elaine Thornton, MD of New York and Susan Eileen Thornton-Smith, Yonkers, New York and one son, Christopher William Maurice Thornton, Delmar, New York; two grandsons, John Edward Smith II, Yonkers, NY, and Christopher Juan Thornton-Lopez, Concord, NH; sisters Alberta T. Kimbrough, Chicago, IL, Dr. Emma T. Shepard, Birmingham, AL, and Estelle T. Lavender, Lithonia, GA. He is predeceased by his parents and brothers, William Cullen Thornton and Charles Edward Thornton.


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