Monday, July 20, 2009

Pike County Legal Journal Issues Tribute to Colonel Henry Thomas, former Court Crier for Pike County Court of Common Pleas

In this week's Pike County Legal Journal there is an excellent tribute to the late Colonel Henry Thomas, former Court Crier for the Pike County Court of Common Pleas. What a great guy he was--just a solid human being all around.

My first legal job was as a law clerk in the Pike County Court of Common Pleas and I was lucky enough to get to work with Colonel Thomas whenever court was in session and I can say I am a better lawyer and person for it. He helped me to learn some of the basic expectations and courtesies expected in the courtroom and even how local practice was supposed to work in Pike County.

He also was known for taking his job seriously. Being a former military policeman, he was always quick to tell anyone who appeared before the court to take their hands out of their pockets. He would always try to be the first one in the courtroom in the morning so that he could do a "bomb sweep" of the courtroom and the gallery (and he was serious about it). Yet, he would also show he was human in that he would sometimes nod off to sleep during the "eloquent" arguments of various attorneys near the end of a long argument day.

As I am sure there are many lawyers out there who have fond memories of having encountered Colonel Thomas over the years in Pike County, I invite you to submit a comment below of any memories of Colonel Thomas you may have to offer.

I also wanted to share parts of the moving tribute to him that appeared the Pike County Legal Journal:

Col. Henry G. Thomas
October 21, 1912 to October 29, 2003

Court Crier for
The Pike County Court
of Common Pleas

Many bar members can probably fondly recall all the times Col. Henry G. Thomas stood up to call court to order by reciting these words: “OYEZ, OYEZ, OYEZ, all you have ought to do before the Honorable Court, draw near and give your attention and you shall be heard. God Save this Commonwealth and this Honorable Court. [The Honorable President Judge, Harold A. Thomson presiding.]”

For almost two decades, Col. Thomas began every morning of court with the above greeting. He served his role as court crier with no less dedication than he served his country in the military.

Col. Thomas prided himself on checking the courtroom every morning to be certain that all the chairs and tables were cleared of any contraband. A talkative fellow, he could recall endless facts, dates, and other information seemingly effortlessly. He was famous for taking the list of jurors’ names home with him after jury selection and memorizing them. For the remainder of the trial, he knew each juror by name. When taking a verdict from a jury, many of us recall laughing at the way he would ask the jurors if they were content with the verdict ...followed up by the next question ...were they content with each other.

He also liked to help ease young lawyers’ nervousness by sharing with them secrets he learned from the military tribunal of rubbing their hands together to release nervous energy before engaging in a trial. Any time he saw a new lawyer’s face in the courtroom, he always went over to get their card so that he could properly introduce them to the court. When Tuesday morning Motions Court still existed, Col. Thomas made sure that he directed the order of attorneys appearing to present their motions so that no one went out of order of seniority. He was an integral part of court and missed by all who had the pleasure of knowing him.

Col. Henry Thomas had an interesting life. Born in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, he went on to study at Penn State. He graduated in the late 1930s and through ROTC received a Lieutenant’s Commission in the Infantry. He was made a commander of a CCC camp just before World War II. When the war started he became a MP Officer and went to North Africa to observe the German and Italian prisoners. Later in the war he went to India and Burma as a MP Officer. At the end of the war, he was in Vienna and was involved with the four power policing of the city. He later served in Korea. In his later years, Col. Thomas faithfully served Judge Thomson by calling court to order each morning in his capacity as court crier. Col. Thomas passed away at age 91. He and his wife Naomi are buried in Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia. The Pike County Bar Association salutes the many years of faithful service to the court by Col. Thomas. The picture of Col. Thomas with his plaque from the court is on the wall outside the Judge’s Chambers in the Pike County Courthouse.

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