- The Washington Times - Friday, April 28, 2006

ROANOKE — A. Victor Thomas, who represented Roanoke in the House of Delegates for 30 years, died April 26 at his home in Roanoke. He was 76.

Mr. Thomas apparently died of heart failure, his son, Vic Thomas Jr., told the Roanoke Times.

Mr. Thomas, a Democrat, retired from the General Assembly after the 2003 session. He was best known as an advocate for sportsmen and a supporter of mental health programs. He led the House Conservation and Natural Resources Committee until the Democrats lost their House majority in 2000, and served on the powerful Appropriations Committee.

He was a perennial pick as one of about a half-dozen House negotiators responsible for working out the final draft of the state budget.

“Vic Thomas always spoke for those Virginians who did not have a voice,” Gov. Timothy M. Kaine said in a written statement. “He was a man of great faith who showed the impact that one man, committed to service, can make in a community.”

During a session of the Virginia Senate on the day of his death, colleagues who served with him in the House remembered his plain-spoken, homespun manner.

“If Vic gave you his word, you could take it to the bank,” said Sen. John S. Edwards, a fellow Democrat whose Roanoke-area district overlapped with Mr. Thomas’ House district.

Not always quick with a name, Mr. Thomas had a disarming way of referring to colleagues and others in Richmond as “boy” or “girl.”

Several weeks ago when he encountered Mr. Kaine, friends said Mr. Thomas told the new governor, “Well, I guess I can’t call you boy any more.”

Mr. Thomas was a champion of firearms interests and outdoor sports enthusiasts.

An avid hunter and angler, Mr. Thomas was the creator and annual host of the General Assembly’s annual wild game dinner, held near the end of each legislative session.

Mr. Thomas, the grandson of Lebanese immigrants, was a throwback Democrat, with conservative leanings on some issues forged by his rural upbringing and his deeply held religious faith.

Mr. Thomas kept his legislative office in the small country store opened by his father, the E.J. Thomas Market in Roanoke. He operated the store until he left the General Assembly in 2003, then sold it to go into full retirement.

The original market was devastated by a flood on Election Day in November 2005, when a helicopter rescued him from the roof of the store, said Brian Shepard, Mr. Thomas’ legislative aide until the delegate retired. Mr. Shepard is now Mr. Kaine’s policy director.

Mr. Thomas is survived by his wife, Dorothy; sons Vic, Eric, Tom; a daughter, Gen Thomas Johnson; a sister; four brothers; and four grandchildren, the Roanoke Times reported.

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