Funeral services for Dr. Thomas Lee Richardson will be held on Saturday at 10 a.m. at Lewis Temple CME Church in Grambling.
Visitation will be held Friday from 5 p.m to 7 p.m. at King’s Funeral Home, 1511 W. California in Ruston.
Interment will be in Grambling Memorial Garden.
Dr. Richardson was a gentle spirit who told powerful stories of the struggles of African Americans through art.
The themes in his art told that story forcefully. More importantly, he taught his students to tell the story. This was significant in the heyday of his presence at African American universities beginning in the 1950s through the early 1980s.
“Grambling has lost a great person,” said Darryl Triplett, a former art student and football player at GSU.
“He was a beacon of light, a colorful and delightful individual. He treated everyone one with respect and dignity,” said the 1986 graduate who is now a teacher and professional artist in Monroe.
Dr. Richardson joined the faculty of then Grambling College in 1955 and established the Department of Art in 1956.
Larry Holston, department alumnus and assistant professor of art, remembers Richardson’s artwork as “kind of whimsical.” He said Richardson would employ themes that “would draw you in.”
Beyond the teacher was a man who shared his life and his passion with his students.
“He seemed to have a real love for the field. It was important that you understood that he understood that,” the art teacher said of Richardson.
Holston said he shared many private conversations with his professor.
“I used to go to his house and we would just sit and talk. I enjoyed those moments most.”
“I loved going to his class,” Cliff Woods said. “He made it interesting because he loved his craft.”
Dr. Richardson was born Aug. 26, 1925, the sixth of nine children, to the late Jesse and Emma L. Alston Richardson in Warrenton, N.C. He died Saturday after a lengthy illness.
He attended the public schools of Warrenton, graduating in the first 12th grade class from John R. Hawkins High School in 1943.
Dr. Richardson began his studies at Hampton Institute (now Hampton University) where he developed and refined many of his artistic talents. World War II interrupted his studies at Hampton.
He served three years as a B-25 tail gunner-armored where he rose to the rank of sergeant in the 477th Bombardment Group, popularly known as the Tuskegee Airmen. In the segregated U.S. Army, this was the first and only African American U.S. Army Air Force bomber group during the war.
Following his discharge, Dr. Richardson found most colleges and universities overcrowded with veterans, including Hampton Institute that wait-listed the former student.
In 1947, he enrolled at North Carolina A&T College (now North Carolina A&T State University), graduating in 1950 with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts. He received his master’s degree in art from Iowa State University in 1953 and a doctorate degree in art education with a minor in art history from Pennsylvania State University in 1966.
He served as head of the Art Department at Texas College in Tyler, where he met and married Thelma Powell on Jan. 16, 1954.
Dr. Richardson has studied at universities in India with a Fulbright-Hayes Cross-Cultural Study Group in 1974 and in 1978 as co-director of the Fulbright-Hayes Art Curriculum Development Seminar studying with 18 art, music, and drama instructors. He also served as co-director of an Eight-College Consortium in cross-cultural studies in Mexico.
He made many contributions to Grambling State University, which included painting portraits of the school’s presidents – Charles P. Adams, founder, R.W.E. Jones and Joseph Johnson. He executed and donated pencil drawings of GSU’s founder, Charles and Martha Adams, and their children. The drawings are housed in the preserved Adams home where GSU Hall of Fame plaques hang. Thomas was inducted into the GSU Hall of Fame in 1991.
Thomas also designed the stained glass windows of Lewis Temple Christian Methodist Church in Grambling.
Dr. Richardson was a member of the Grambling Couples Club, the oldest social club in Grambling. He was also a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc., Pi Tau Chapter in Grambling.
He is survived by his wife, Thelma Powell Richardson; two sisters, Martha R. Nichols and Selma R. Massenburg of Louisburg, N.C.; brother-in-law Lloyd Powell of Ann Arbor, Mich.; special friend and helper, Duncan Robinson; and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.