Community Remembers Former Nandua Principal Larry Thomas

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By Carol Vaughn —

Popular retired Accomack County educator Larry Thomas died Thursday, Sept. 2, at age 72 after an illness.
Thomas, who grew up in Temperanceville and graduated from Atlantic High School, was known for his love of sports and students.
After earning a bachelor’s degree from Barton College and a master’s degree from Salisbury State University, Thomas started his career teaching and coaching at Parksley High School.
He later taught health and physical education and coached football, basketball, and track and field at his alma mater, Atlantic High School.
After leading teams to numerous district and regional championships, Thomas in 1985 became an assistant principal, serving at Mary N. Smith and Atlantic High School.
He became principal of Nandua High School in 1989 and remained there until his 2005 retirement.
“Simply put, Mr. Thomas was the GOAT of principals. I can confidently say that he knew the name of every single student who crossed the threshold of Nandua’s doors while he was there. He made every student feel special,” said Jamar Walker, a Nandua High graduate and athlete who went on to become an assistant United States attorney in northern Virginia.
Walker in a Facebook post recalled the close relationship he had with Thomas, saying, “During summers when I’d hang out at Nandua, he put me to work, reminding me that I wasn’t too young to start grinding. My salary most often came in the form of McDonald’s or $5 bucks out of his own pocket to buy McDonald’s — something that was always met with joy from me and eye rolls from my mom. But he helped instill a strong work ethic in me from an early age.”
From the mid-1990s until Walker graduated in 2004, Walker said he rode to more than 100 football and basketball games with Thomas — he wrote about Thomas’ notorious driving.
“And every single time, I knew that the only thing protecting us from crashing was the good Lord. Everybody from Mr. Custis to Mrs. Wells to Mr. Boggs to Mr. Reese would tell me how brave (read: foolish) I was to let Mr. Thomas drive me anywhere. And if you have ever ridden with Mr. Thomas, you know he spent more time looking at you and the back seat than he did at the road. The concept of staying in your own lane, quite literally, was foreign to him.”
Still, Walker said he cherishes those memories now—“everything from the random life lessons to the endless conversations about our team’s chances of victory and who we needed to step up in a big game.
“Larry Thomas gave everything he had to Nandua, often to the detriment of his health and his personal life. I hope he knew that his sacrifices never went unnoticed. And that every student who had the privilege of calling him principal was immeasurably blessed.”
Chris Holland, Accomack County Public Schools superintendent, this week recalled his own relationship with Thomas.
“We were very close. He was a friend and colleague. … He was a principal when I was a principal and we worked very closely,” Holland said, adding, “It’s sad that we even have to talk about this.”
“Larry was an educator. He was very committed to the students in his career. He was a great competitor as an athletic coach. He did a lot of things good for Accomack County,” he said.
Holland said Thomas was the type of person who spent a lot of time outside the classroom to help students.
“He will be very missed in Accomack County. He was well thought of,” Holland said.

A celebration of life service will be held on the Nandua High School football field Sunday, Sept. 12 at 2 p.m. Masks are required. Interment is private.

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