Kathryn Perry Thomas

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Memphis lost a link to its history last week when Kathryn Perry Thomas died at the age of 92. Thomas, a classical pianist featured in an August cover story in the Flyer, was the last living Memphian to have played with jazz bandleader Jimmie Lunceford, who taught music in the Bluff City before going on the road in 1930. Thomas' brother Andrew Perry was a member of Lunceford's first band the Chickasaw Syncopators.

Thomas spent her career here as an educator in the Memphis City Schools teaching English and Spanish, first at Manassas High School in North Memphis, her alma mater, class of 1932, and later at White Station.

The Comrades N Community organization recognized Thomas as one of their Women of Stamina last year. She also received the Jimmie Lunceford Legacy Award from local culture activist Ron Herd at his educational Jimmie Lunceford Jamboree in October 2007.

Thomas donated her remains to science. If the secrets to kindness, vitality, and longevity lie in the human body, then we just got one step closer to learning them. "She was an educator the end," Herd remarked.

-- Preston Lauterbach

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