Miss Reb "Pepper" Thomas Passes Away
OXFORD, Miss. – William Dalton “Pepper” Thomas, 77, retired Director of Golf at Ole Miss, passed away here Thursday, Dec. 15, at Baptist Memorial Hospital - North Mississippi.
The funeral service will be held Saturday at 11 a.m. at College Hill Presbyterian Church with Rev. Alan Cochet officiating. Visitation will be prior to the service from 9 to 11 a.m. in the fellowship hall at College Hill Presbyterian Church. Waller Funeral Home is in charge of the arrangements.
Thomas was a two-sport letterman during his playing career at Ole Miss as he earned one letter in football for Coach John Vaught’s Rebels and two for Coach Tom Swayze’s diamond squad.
Following an outstanding season on the freshman football team, Thomas helped lead Vaught’s 1954 Reb varsity to a 9-2 record and the school’s second Southeastern Conference championship. The only losses included a 6-0 setback to Arkansas in Little Rock and a 21-0 Sugar Bowl loss to Navy.
During the 1954 championship season, Thomas, who played left halfback and safety, made a valuable contribution as a rusher, passer, receiver, punt returner and kickoff returner.
Thomas also excelled on the baseball diamond as a shortstop, earning All-SEC honors in 1954 when Swayze’s Rebels finished 15-7-1, advancing to the SEC championship series where they were beaten (2-1) by Georgia’s Bulldogs in a best of three series. Thomas hit .289 that year and then hit .290 the following season when Ole Miss went 16-3.
Prior to enrolling at Ole Miss, Thomas compiled an outstanding record in football, baseball and basketball at Newton (Miss.) High School as he was awarded 16 total letters.
Thomas earned All-State and All-Choctaw Conference honors in football and scored on runs of 16 and 44 yards for the victorious “Yanks” in the 1953 Mississippi High School North-South game.
In basketball, Thomas averaged 18 points per game during his final season, which also earned him all-star status. He also compiled a brilliant high school record in baseball, pitching Newton to the 1953 state championship. Over a four-year span in high school, he won 38 baseball games, including three no-hitters, while losing only seven times.
Thomas, who earned his Master of Education degree from the University of Southern Mississippi, played professional baseball in the Milwaukee Braves organization for nine years. He was in the restaurant business in the Meridian, Miss., area prior to moving to Oxford to become Director of Golf at the University of Mississippi from which he retired in 2006.
He coached Little League baseball and taught golf, was a member of the Ole Miss M-Club and was honored as a Legend of Golf at the Ole Miss Golf Course. He loved his family, friends and all sports.
Survivors include his wife, Juanita Durham Thomas of Oxford, Miss.; three sons, Stephen Wesley Thomas of Oxford, William Jeffery Thomas of Olive Branch and John Timothy Thomas of Tampa, Fla.; one brother, Milton Thomas of Jackson and four grandchildren.
Memorial contributions in Mr. Thomas’ memory may be made to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, 501 St. Jude Place, Memphis, TN 38105-1905.