1998 Jim Crowley Award Winner
Detroit Central High School’s
Woodrow “Woody” Thomas
Becomes 18th Jim Crowley Award Recipient
By Larry Sellers, Crowley Award Chair, Traverse City St. Francis
Our 1998 Jim Crowley Award recipient is a 1955 graduate of Miller High School in Detroit. At Miller, he won 11 Varsity letters in football, basketball, and track, was All-City in football and track and was distinguished as Captain of all three of the teams during his senior year in high school. For his outstanding efforts, he received a scholarship in football to Tennessee State University where he played and lettered for four years. He made the All-Conference Team during both his junior and senior years and served as Captain of the football team in 1958.
After serving three years in the U.S. Army, Woody began his teaching career at Carver High School in Gadsden, Alabama in 1959 where he served as an assistant coach. His next teaching position was at Jones High School in Lewisburg, Tennessee where he coached football, basketball, and boys’ and girls’ track; he served as athletic director in Lewisburg from 1963-1965.
Coming to Detroit, Michigan in 1965, our recipient started coaching football and track at Detroit Northern High School. At Northern, he won the first City and State Boys’ Track Championship in 1972. He became an assistant football coach at Detroit Central High School in 1973 and served in that capacity until 1980. In 1980, he became head football coach and currently holds that position along with being the boys’ track coach.
Woody has been distinguished with several awards. In 1972, he received the Detroit News Coach of the Year Award and the Michigan Chronicle Coach of the Year Award. Since then he has won ten city and 16 Regional Championships and eight Coach of the Year Awards for track an field. Along with those awards, he received the MHSFCA Coach of the Year Award in 1981, the District Coach of the Year Award, the 1981 WJBK Man of the Year Community Award, the 1995 Superintendent’s Outstanding Service Award, the 1995 Board of Education Award, and the Detroit Coaches Achievement Award for 1996. Other awards which highlight Coach Thomas’ career include the MITCA 30 Year Award in Track and Field, the MHSCA Coaching Service Award for 35 years in football; and in 1996, he was inducted into the Tennessee State Hall of Fame. His career in Athletics has had a tremendous impact on the lives of the students with whom he has come in contact, including former U-M football star Thomas Wilcher, Dr. Shawn Abernathy, and Captain Anthony Berry.
In addition to his involvement in athletics, our recipient is firmly connected to the community. At Lovejoy Church of God in Christ, he serves as Chairman of the Men’s Board. He has also been quite involved with children in the community. For the past five years, he has been in a volunteer summer program for track and field in which over 200 children participate. Somehow through all of this, he has managed to compile an outstanding football record of 147 wins and only 47 losses in the Detroit Public School League and was inducted into the MHSFCA Hall of Fame in 1995. Woody’s family includes Ruth, his wife of 37 years, three lovely daughters, two sons-in-law, and two grandchildren.