Aug. 19, 1926 Terre Haute Vigo County Indiana, USA
Oct. 14, 1997 Terre Haute Vigo County Indiana, USA
Terre Haute Tribune-Star October 16, 1997
Lover of politics respected by peers
Former councilman, treasurer, auditor Thomas dies at 71
Kenneth R. Thomas, a barber who took a fancy to politics, died Tuesday at 71, after a career in public service that included stints on the Terre Haute City Council and as Vigo County treasurer and auditor. "Kenny loved politics. He had an uncle, Larry, who was Harrison Township trustee. That's where he got interested in politics," said a business partner, John Hochhalter, who first met Thomas in 1959 at the former Orpheum Barber Shop at 110 N. Seventh St. Thomas earlier worked a six-chair barber shop in the former Terre Haute House hotel from 1950 to 1957. He became business partners with Hochhalter in 1963 with the Esquire Hairstyling, at 30 N. Sixth St. "He was the best friend I've had," Hochhalter said. "He was a great storyteller and an excellent barber. We were partners until 1982, when he became county treasurer." It was 1971 when P. Pete Chalos recalls Thomas saying he planned to run for City Council. Chalos decided he too would run. They both won, defeating incumbents, and took office in 1972. "We first met right after we both got out of the service in the 1940s," Chalos said. "I think Kenny Thomas was one of the best public servants I've ever met. He was honest as the day is long and very competent in what he did. I had a lot of respect for him." Thomas served two terms with Chalos on the City Council. Chalos then won election as mayor, serving 16 years. In 1982, Thomas began his firstterm as Vigo County treasurer. There, Nadine Nicoson worked for Thomas as a deputy treasurer. She first met Thomas and his wife, Barbara, in 1954 while working at the former Star's Cleaners at North Lafayette Avenue and 11th Street. "We just developed a good friendship. He was a super person. He really represented the voter first; you kind of forget that anymore," she said. "Barbara really helped me out this year when (Nicoson's husband Ronald) died and now I will have to console her. I really know how she feels. It's rough," Nicoson said. Shirley Creasey has worked as a deputy county treasurer for 22 years. She met Thomas in 1979 while he was a city councilman. Creasey's husband, Terry, got his hair cut by Thomas. "He was a good boss," Creasey said. "He'd like to tell jokes and he really loved reading books. I do too and we would swap books." Creasey recalls in 1982 when Thomas was asked to use his scissors to trim Donald Ray Wallace's hair before a Vigo county jury convicted Wallace of murdering four people at Evansville in 1980. "The sheriff asked Kenny to cut his hair. I remember Kenny saying, 'just make sure he's handcuffed.' Kenny was joking, but they did handcuff Wallace anyway," Creasey said. Thomas served as treasurer from 1982 to 1988. Nicoson, now a deputy auditor for the county, also worked for Thomas as auditor. Thomas left one year early from the treasurer's office, where he was limited to two terms, and ran for county auditor. He won election and served one term from 1989 to 1992. During the past 15 years, Thomas enjoyed meeting for coffee with friends each weekday at 10 a.m., said Glenn E. Staggs, a member of the coffee group he nicknamed the "Liar's Club." "We never have a dull conversation; that's why I call it the Liar's Club," Staggs said. "At 87, I'm the oldest of the group, which includes John Throckmorton, Charlie Banks and Tommy Jones, who was a good basketball official." "We'd talk with Kenny about everything from politics to sports. One thing about Kenny; He was an avid and good fisherman. We went to northern Michigan about 12 years ago and fished for four days. He was the best fisherman. He was patient," Staggs said. Staggs called Thomas a good family man, pointing to Thomas' children; Sherry, Janice, Larry and Scott.