American Scene

ARKANSAS

Jefferson Thomas, of Little Rock 9, dies

LITTLE ROCK | Jefferson Thomas, who as a teenager was among nine black students to integrate a Little Rock high school in the nation’s first major battle over school segregation, has died. He was 68.

Mr. Thomas died Sunday in Ohio of pancreatic cancer, according to a statement from Carlotta Walls LaNier, who also enrolled at Central High School in 1957 and is president of the Little Rock Nine Foundation.

The integration fight was a first real test of the federal government’s resolve to enforce a 1954 Supreme Court order outlawing racial segregation in the nation’s public schools. After Gov. Orval Faubus, a Democrat, sent National Guard troops to block Mr. Thomas and eight other students from entering Central High, President Eisenhower ordered in the Army’s 101st Airborne Division.

Soldiers stood in the school hallways and escorted each of the nine students as they went from classroom to classroom.

Each of the Little Rock Nine received Congressional Gold Medals shortly after the 40th anniversary of their enrollment. President Clinton presented the medals in 1999 to Mr. Thomas, Mrs. LaNier, Melba Patillo Beals, Minnijean Trickey Brown, Elizabeth Eckford, Ernest Green, Gloria Ray Karlmark, Terrence Roberts and Thelma Mothershed Wair.

In 2008, Barack Obama sent Mr. Thomas and other members of the Little Rock Nine special invitations to his inauguration as the nation’s first black president. During his campaign, he had said the Little Rock Nine’s courage in desegregating Central High helped make the opportunities in his life possible.

COLORADO

Wind-driven wildfire forces evacuations

DENVER | A wind-driven wildfire broke out in the rugged Colorado foothills and quickly spread across 4 square miles Monday, destroying some homes and triggering evacuations of hundreds of others.

No injuries were reported. Authorities could not say how many structures burned down, but they said at least some were houses.

The fire started in Four Mile Canyon northwest of Boulder, and erratic winds gusting to 45 mph spread the flames both to the west and northeast.

At least four roads in the area were closed, and a billowing, white plume of heavy smoke was visible for miles. The cause of the fire was unknown.

About 200 homes scattered in and near the canyon were evacuated earlier in the day. Authorities said residents of seven other subdivisions were ordered to evacuate by Monday night.

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