• If you are citizen of an European Union member nation, you may not use this service unless you are at least 16 years old.

  • You already know Dokkio is an AI-powered assistant to organize & manage your digital files & messages. Very soon, Dokkio will support Outlook as well as One Drive. Check it out today!


Tribute to David Thomas

Page history last edited by Pat Hensley 15 years, 3 months ago

David O. Thomas

 1917 – 2007


David O. Thomas, one of the co-founders of the

Mount Rogers Appalachian Trail Club


David O. Thomas had deep roots in Washington County, Virginia. He was the fifth generation to live on the land where his home is located. His great-great-grandfather, John S. King (a veteran of the War of 1812), bought the property in 1831; but his 3 greats- grandfather, William King (veteran of the Revolutionary War and the Battle of King’s Mountain), had owned the property as early as 1810, only five years after the earliest settlers in the area had recorded the initial survey.

His parents operated the farm for 47 years while living in a log house built before 1820. David was born in this house on Feb 15, 1917. When TVA filled South Holston Lake in 1950, the log home had to be demolished; David used stone from that house for the chimney in his house.

David met Nerine Bower in first grade at Cleveland School, and said he knew from that time on that she would be his wife. She was not convinced until 1940, when he came home for Labor Day from his new job with the Census Bureau in the Department of Commerce in Washington, DC, and they decided to get married

Later David taught at Cleveland High School. He became the Vocational Agriculture instructor and reactivated the Holston Valley Chapter of the Future Farmers of America (FFA). He led the equipping and operation of the agriculture shop, which now bears his name as the home of the Cleveland Community Center.

He also led community activities such as classes for veterans returning from WWII; a local Farmers Club – which led to the organization of the Washington County Farm Bureau; a Community Club to help cope with the impact TVA was having on local residents; and the Cleveland Green Spring Wildlife Association. He completed course work for a masters degree in Agriculture from Virginia Tech.

After leaving teaching, David worked in various local companies including Lincoln Industries in Damascus, Sperry, Raytheon and the local Blue Cross office. David retired in Feb 1979 from his position as Benefits Manager for Univac in Bristol, TN.

In the early 1950s after the construction of South Holston Dam, David built a home using surplus building components from TVA. In 1988, he and Nerine replaced most of that structure with a log home carefully retaining the original rock chimney.

David, while holding office jobs, always helped his brother George run the family farm. After George died in 1981, he continued to raise beef cattle, tobacco, and a barn full of cats. But his best agriculture accomplishment was always a large garden that fed the family, provided food to preserve for the winter and supplied neighbors and passersby. Tomatoes were a specialty.

David was active in many organizations. He was a member and officer of the Washington County Historical Society, Inc. He and Nerine were active square dancers from the 1950s to the 1980s. He participated in the initial planning and re-enactment of the Over Mountain March to King’s Mountain.

David and Nerine always enjoyed hiking. In 1959, several people, including David, independently contacted the Appalachian Trail Conference to explore the possibility of establishing a trail maintaining club in southwest Virginia. An attempt to establish the club was delayed on February 22, 1960 when a group from the Roanoke Club along with potential members for the local club were delayed in their return from a hike on Whitetop Mountain due to snow. A week later on February 29, 1960, the club was organized at a meeting in Damascus. David was elected the first president of the club and continued to hold various offices until his death.

In 1992, the club along with the Konnarock Crew constructed a new shelter to replace Deep Gap Shelter. In order to comply with restrictions regarding the naming of structures for living people, a nearby point was named “Thomas Knob” and the new shelter was named the Thomas Knob Shelter in honor David and Nerine.

The shelter was dedicated on August 14, 1992. Those present for the dedication included club members, U.S. Representative Rick Boucher, Jefferson National Forest Supervisor Joy Berg, Mount Rogers National Recreation Area Ranger Steve Sherwood, and ATC representatives.


As one of several to speak during the dedication, David’s remarks illustrate his humble personality:

To some of you this may seem to be a dreary day, but to Nerine and me it is full of sunshine. Many people are born to insignificance—and we were—but today you have honored us and made us significant. We accept this with humility, pleasure and appreciation. We feel a little incredulous that we have been so honored today. During the past 32 years Nerine and I volunteered for jobs in the Club. We were happy to be doing them. It was reward enough to be taking part in the good work of the Mt. Rogers Appalachian Trail Club where so much is done in a light manner. We had no sense of work, only enjoyment. One of our greatest rewards was the friendships that developed, not only in the Club, but friends from Georgia to Maine, including our friends in the U. S. Forest Service, Virginia State Parks, and the National Park Service.


David closed his remarks with: “Thank all of you—old friends and new friends. God bless you. We love you all.”


The annual club meeting on February 25, 2006 included several tributes to David. Because his health was beginning to fail, he was unable to attend this meeting.


Glenn Morrell’s comments at this meeting provide a fitting capstone to the life of David O. Thomas and express the feelings of every club member:

David must have some idea of how Moses felt while in the wilderness with his people for 40 years. David has broken Moses’ record for he has had a host of people following him around in the wilderness for 46 years.

It has been a privilege and a pleasure knowing David all these years while working at Sperry and while working with the wonderful people in MRATC.

David has touched many lives with much needed advice and other help as they were walking the Appalachian Trail. We all have learned much from David through the years.

David [has been] a friend and a source of encouragement as we traveled on the trail of life together. He has followed the “blaze”, physically, emotionally and spiritually. He has led us well. Nerine and David have made us feel we are family. We love them.


David died on May 20, 2007 and was buried on May 24 near his parents in the cemetery of picturesque Cleveland Presbyterian Church in a graveside service as he had stipulated.


This tribute to David O. Thomas was written by Ed Clayton. The information has been drawn from MRATC newsletters, ATC publications, and biographical information provided by David G. Thomas.

Comments (0)

You don't have permission to comment on this page.