June 4, 2021: Dr. Clifford Thomas passed away. Go to this link to view his June 15 home-going celebration. A life well-lived will never end.
On August 28, 1963, Dr. Clifford Thomas had the honor of hearing Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., speak on the Mall in Washington, D.C. One message that remained in his heart was that people should be judged by the content of their characters. At home, his parents taught him that it was not enough to live his life for himself alone, but that he should share his skills and help others reach their potential. Dr. Thomas embodied both these messages throughout his personal and professional lives. Not only did he excel in martial arts, eventually becoming a professional kick boxer, but through martial arts he found his voice and his path as a teacher.
Beginning in 1964 under several legendary instructors (Grand Master Jhoon Rhee, Master Kwon Ro, Master Jack Dutcher, Master Roji Yamakawa, Master Suk Chung, Grand Master Myung Seok Seo, and Grand Master Parks), he mastered tae kwon do and branched out to other styles, including hapkido and judo. He was not satisfied to practice his art as an individual competitor. In the 1970s as a young adult, he was one of the pioneering African American black belts who came to the fore and caught the attention of the martial arts world. He began teaching children and adults in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, developing a following among underserved and minority residents. Among his notable students were members of the Black Panthers. He put heart and soul into teaching and reaching out to help others.
In the years that followed, there were many accolades and awards. In 1989, Dr. Thomas was named the coach of the Amateur Athletic Union Potomac Valley Team, which was the first to win the Olympic competition in martial arts for the Potomac Valley region. In 1996/97, he was on the Board of Directors of the Martial Arts Federation for World Peace and the World Youth Federation of World Peace. In 1998, he received the World Martial Arts Hall of Fame Diamond Life Achievement Award. In 2000, he received the Distinguished Soke Award from the World Martial Arts League, Frankfurt, Germany. In 2002, he was awarded distinguished honors both under General Chai of Korea and the World Korean Martial Arts Union, one of the select few non-Asian Americans to be so recognized. In 2005, he received aDoctorate in Philosophy and Martial Arts Sciences from the Royal Family of Saudi Arabia.
Over these years, Dr. Thomas continually expanded the scope of his program to foster crucial survival skills for people of all ages. His work garnered acknowledgement from leaders at the local, county, and national levels, including from three presidents. In 1997, he was nominated for the Presidential Award Volunteer of the Year by President Clinton. In 2001, he received the Unsung Hero Award from the City of Washington, D.C., and the Presidential Award from President G.W. Bush. Building on this foundation, in 2011 Dr. Thomas established the nonprofit We Lead By Example, Inc./Tae Kwon Do Ramblers Self-Defense Systems. He was especially proud of being presented with the Distinguished African American Award from the Town of Bladensburg in 2013. In 2015, he received a congratulatory letter from President Barack Obama marking his grandmaster status.
Always striving to live by example, Dr. Thomas was a leader, not a follower. He never gave up on himself or others. Through his street-smart, yet warm-hearted and kind personality, he served the community as a unique and powerful force for good. People of all ages responded to his patience and generosity. Modeling self-determination, he inspired those around him to achieve greatness and to take pride in themselves. His wit, style, and flair will always be remembered, but his most enduring legacy will be seen through the generations of students he inspired, as he himself was inspired by Dr. King’s words.
Ron Williams, Sr., a brother in the martial arts (Welch's Okinawan Karate Dojo) and good friend of Dr. Clifford Thomas, was featured on The Veronica Harris Show (DCTV) at this link. He is a retired Washington, DC, police officer (30 years of service). His martial arts ranking is Kyoshi-Nanadan/7th Dan blackbelt in Okinawan karate do and 7th Dan blackbelt in Okinawan kobudo. He was the first American promoted to Kyoshi, Nanadan 7th Dan blackbelt in the Shorinkan kobudo by Hanshi, Judan 10th Dan ,Shugoro Nakazato.
Dr. Jose Jones, renowned martial artist, has gone deep and wide in the marine world as a scientist, scuba diver, institution builder, and public servant. He was one of Dr. Clifford Thomas' mentors in the 1960s in tae kwon do. Even more, Dr. Jones encouraged him to be a leader not a follower by getting a good education and sharing his knowledge. View an excellent video interview with Dr. Jones, who is still very active teaching oceanography and diving as well as tae kwon do (the DC Wheel Kickers) on The Veronica Harris Show (DCTV) at this link.
Grandmaster Dr. Leon (Lee) James Edmonds passed away on December 1, 2016, at the Forestville Health and Rehabilitation Center, in Forestville, Maryland. He was the executive director of Black Belt University, which was established in 1986. He taught martial arts for over 40 years. The first American to earn a black sash in the ancient Shao-lin art of T'ien Shan P'ai, he was instrucgted by Grandmaster Lui and Supreme Grandmaster Wang Jyne-Jen, in China. He held ten black belts invarious systems, including kung fu, tai chi, jiu-jitsu, karate, and tae kwon do. A champion himself, Grandmaster Edmonds trained state, national, and international champions. He was featured in movies, magazines, on radio, and on television. He appeared in Who's Who International, along with Stephen Segal and Chuck Norris. His craft took him to Japan, Korea, and China, where he demonstrated his skills in numerous exhibitions. Grandmaster Edmonds said: "Martial arts is more than slicing the air with kicks and punches; it is a way of life ... a discipline which harnasses the body, the mind and spirit to defeat an opponent."
Henri Mae Davis, one of Dr. Clifford Thomas' esteemed honorary black belts, passed away on February 25, 2015. Her grandson Malik is working toward attaining his first-brown belt and her son Cedric and granddaughter Dymon are former Rambler students. Mrs. Davis' funeral was held on Thursday, March 5, and she was buried at Harmony Memorial Park. Henri Mae Pryor Davis was born March 24, 1925, in New Kensington, Pennsylvania. After high school, she moved to Washington, D.C. to take a job with the federal government. For the next 30 years she worked at the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, retiring in 1980 as a senior contracts officer. She received an A.A. degree in business from the University of the District of Columbia in 1984. Henri Mae proved to be an enthusiastic traveler. She travelled all over the German Republic, France, Monaco, Luxembourg, Italy, Holland and Nurnburg. In her retirement years, she toured Egypt and the Holy Land. One of Henri Mae's fondest associations was her membership in the Dillies Social Club. The club was formed by a group of young, professional Black women. Henri Mae was a founding member and their friendship and companionship endured for more than 50 years. Henri Mae learned to swim as an adult, overcoming a lifelong fear of water, and in the process became the legendary swimmer of the family. She swam with the D.C. Golden Dolphins and the Water Wizards swim teams. Henri Mae qualified several times for the National Senior Olympics. She was very proud of the medals she won in the competitions and she swam until the age of 84. Henri Mae volunteered for years at Providence Hospital's Telecare Friendly Visitor Project, visiting nursing home residents. Donations in her memory may be made to the National Senior Games Association, P.O. Box 82059, Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70884.
Grandmaster Reginald A. Jackson, Sr., an esteemed martial artist, died on Monday, December 31, at the age of 69. He was laid to rest on January 10, 2013, at Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Maryland, buried in his karate uniform. He grew up in Chapel Oaks, Maryland, and was a parishioner at St. Joseph Catholic Church. After 30 years of service, Grandmaster Jackson retired from the District of Columbia government as a tractor trailer driver and from Maryland Park and Planning Parks and Recreation, where he worked as a karate instructor before and after his retirement. He was an advocate for education, and he encouraged children to read and watch the news to be aware of events in the world around them. He was a strict disciplinarian and it was a priorty that all of his children pursue higher education. Karate was his passion and he was inducted into the Hall of Fame for his dedication and commitment to the sport. He and his children traveled the East Coast area to compete in karate tournaments. Grandmaster Jackson impacted many lives and served as a father figure and a role model for children. He taught them martial arts to keep them off the streets. He helped to keep the Simba Do-Jang school active through teaching, promoting tournaments, and hosting award banquet ceremonies. He will be missed in the martial arts world. Dr. Thomas and the Ramblers send their condolences to his family.
Master James L. Wyatt died peacefully on October 13, 2011, surrounded by his family. With his death, the martial arts world lost a true visionary, a great instructor, and a good person. Master Wyatt and Dr. Thomas were competitors over the years, and Dr. Thomas had the utmost respect for him and his organization, the Washington Tae Kwon Do Club in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. He will be truly missed.
The Tae Kwon Do Ramblers' family sends its deepest sympathies to Grandmaster "Lady Dragon" Abbey Wilson Griffin on the passing of her daughter, Coleatha (Coley) Maria Wilson. Coley was born on May 1, 1990, in Baltimore, Maryland. She began her educational journey in the Baltimore school system. She graduated with honors from Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in 2008. Coley was accepted by ten universities but chose Towson University. She was a second semester sophomore at Towson but had already made a big impact on many other people during her time on campus. She was studying the social sciences and had an interest in psychology. During her freshman year, she participated in the SAGE mentorship program, which is designed to partner first year students with upper division students to support their success. Coley worked as a community assistant in one of the residence halls on campus. In addition, she was involved with the Black Student Union, one of Towson's largest and most active student organizations. Coley's motto was, "if you believe it, you will achieve it." The Ramblers honor her life and send our prayers to Lady Dragon and her family.
On August 2, 2008, Kyoshi Robert E. Everhart, an esteemed martial artist and Dr. Thomas' longtime friend and colleague, was laid to rest at Fort Lincoln Cemetery in Hyattsville, Maryland. He died on Sunday, July 27, at the age of 58. He held the rank of 8th degree black belt and established Everhart's Nippon Kenpo Karate Do and Tutoring Center on Capital Hill, as well as Everhart's Trophy and Awards. He was rated among the top karate competitors on the entire East Coast. Dr. Thomas respected Kyoshi Everhart as a martial artist, an entrepreneur, a visionary, and a friend. Kyoshi Everhart imparted to Dr. Thomas his knowledge and insights on how to run a successful organization. Dr. Thomas also learned from him how to run successful tournaments, and was pleased to bring a contingent of Ramblers to participate in tournaments organized by Kyoshi Everhart. Dr. Thomas appreciated Kyoshi Everhart's dedication to producing trophies and awards marked by excellent workmanship, which he regularly purchased and which were sought by martial artists througout the region. Kyoshi Everhart was a martial artist and a man who led by example, and he will be sorely missed. Dr. Thomas and the Ramblers send their condolences to his family.
Kyoshi Everhart was affiliated with Promoters Plus. In the photo, Kyoshi Everhart is to the right of Dr. Thomas, who is being presented the Promoters Plus Referee of the Year award (for the third time) and $275 cash in Atlantic City.