William Rufus Thomas Jr.

b. 10 August 1928, d. 23 September 2008
  • William Rufus Thomas Jr. was born on 10 August 1928 in Brazos County, Texas.
  • William Rufus Thomas and Fannie Brevard Goree appeared in the US federal census of 1 April 1930 in Bryan, Brazos County, Texas, at Banks Street. Other members of the household included William Rufus Thomas Jr., Frances L. Thomas and Jessie Goree Thomas.
  • William Rufus Thomas and Fannie Brevard Goree appeared in the US federal census of 1 April 1940 in Bryan, Brazos County, Texas, at 806 East 28th. Other members of the household included William Rufus Thomas Jr.. The family was living in the same house in 1935.
  • He married Patricia Ann Martin.
  • William Rufus Thomas Jr. died on 23 September 2008 at age 80.
  • The following appeared on 25 September 2008 in The Dallas Morning News: William R. Thomas, Jr., an accomplished businessman, decorated military officer, and devoted father, died Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008 following pulmonary complications at the age of 80. Bill was widely recognized as a preeminent private equity investor, serving as the CEO, Chairman, and President of Dallas, Texas based Capital Southwest Corporation. His sense of integrity, unflagging work ethic, and remarkable leadership qualities derived from his strong Christian faith, military service, and upbringing.
         Born in 1928 in Bryan, Texas prior to the Great Depression, Bill gained first-hand knowledge of the devastating impact poverty had on communities and families. This experience and encouragement from his father, William R. Thomas, Sr., prompted an early interest in enterprise, leading him to start two businesses endeavors in high school, work as a newspaper circulation manager, and take out his first business loan while still a minor. Bill's mother, Fannie Goree Thomas, was a woman of deep faith in Jesus Christ who instilled Bill with qualities of loyalty, faith, and tenacity that permeated his work and family life. Bill graduated from Stephen F. Austin High School in Bryan, Texas as Valedictorian before attending Texas A & M University in College Station, Texas as a Reserve Officer Training Corps student. He worked as a radio staff announcer and salesman during all years before graduating in the upper ten percent of his class in January 1949.
         Bill immediately entered the Army upon graduation from college, attached to the 2nd Chemical Mortar Battalion, serving in the Korean War during the years 1950 and 1951 as a platoon leader, forward observer, and company commander. At the age of 22, Bill was awarded a Bronze Star with Valor for courage and devotion to duty. While defending against intense fire from a numerically superior enemy for over an hour, in which he was wounded and his driver killed, Bill advanced directly in the path of a .50 caliber machine gun, firing his carbine. He ordered his men to mount a second attack and then maneuvered to ensure the safety of his troops. Bill was also awarded the Purple Heart and the Korean service medal with five battle stars during his service as a regular officer which concluded in 1954. He continued to serve in the Army Reserves, retiring in 1979 as a Colonel.
         Bill attended Harvard Business School from 1954 to 1956, where he managed the business newsstand and served as the president of the Texas Club before graduating with distinction. He worked as a manager and investment analyst at the Chromium Plating Company in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a process engineer at the Jefferson Chemical Company in Port Neches, Texas, and a marketing consultant at Commonwealth Services Incorporated in Houston, Texas.
         In 1962, Bill married his soul mate and closest friend, Patricia M. Thomas of Wichita Falls, Texas. They had three children in the years 1967 to 1972 and lovingly raised them in Dallas, Texas. In 1962, Bill began his career as an investment analyst at Capital Southwest Corporation, a business development company that provides long-term financing for growing businesses. During the next 45 years, Bill became Capital Southwest's President and Chairman, involved in or overseeing investments of $135 million in more than 150 businesses. Under his inspiration and leadership, Bill enabled significant company growth as shareholders enjoyed 45-year returns of 15.0% versus the S&P 500 return of 10.5% over the same period. More significantly, Bill infused Capital Southwest and the companies he backed with a spirit of determination and helped them overcome the most challenging of circumstances so that entrepreneurs could achieve dreams and create jobs. As noted in a 1984 Forbes Magazine article, Bill was a soft-spoken, unassuming man who picked his investments carefully, but not timidly. Bill had a great passion for growing and advising businesses, most recently serving on the boards of Encore Wire, Palm Harbor Homes, Alamo Group, Heelys, RectorSeal Corporation, The Whitmore Manufacturing Co., and Jet-Lube. Bill's impassioned letters to shareholders will be missed - sensitive to the growing chasm between CEO pay and that of other employees, Bill often decried such excesses in his annual and quarterly reports. He also made special note of the philosophy by which he made investments of exceptionally long duration, eschewing shorter-term, exit-minded strategies popular in private equity investing. Ultimately, it was this long-term investing style that benefitted shareholders and portfolio company owners over his 45 year tenure. After retirement as Capital Southwest president, Bill served as non-executive chairman of the board of directors for one year until 2008 and remained a director until his passing.
         Bill served in the investment community as chairman of the National Association of Small Business Investment Companies; governor-at-large of the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD), and chairman of the NASD's Corporate Advisory Board. Bill also devoted time to non-profit organizations, serving on the Marketplace Ministries Board which provides chaplains in workplace environments. Bill was also a remarkable mentor whose business insight and persuasive communication skills trained some of the most successful venture investors and business leaders in the Southwest. Furthermore, Bill also taught Venture Capital studies at Cornell's Johnson Business School, where he received an award from students for excellence in teaching. He enjoyed attending the Undermain Theatre in Dallas, Texas and was a congregant at Arapaho United Methodist Church. He was very involved in organizing annual reunions for The Red Dragon 2nd Chemical Mortar Battalion and took pleasure in bird feeding and watching, and viewing a wide variety of films.
         Bill will be missed by many whom he has inspired and supported. Though he is absent from us on earth, he is surely in Heaven rejoicing. Bill is preceded in death by his wife Patricia M. Thomas, son Howard M. Thomas, and sisters Frances Mueller and Jessie Shults. He is survived by his sister Anna B. Killough; daughter Suzanne B. Thomas; son William R. Thomas III and his wife Christa D. Thomas; three grandchildren, Liam, Sarah, and Alden Thomas; and many friends and colleagues.
         A memorial service will be held at Prestonwood Baptist Church on Monday, September 29, 2008 at 1:30pm in the Faith Chapel at 6801 W. Park, Plano, Texas 75093; (972) 820-5000. In lieu of flowers, memorials in Bill's honor may be made to Marketplace Ministries, 12900 Preston Road, Suite 1215, Dallas, Texas, 75230, www.marketplaceministries.com or to The Foundation for the Education of Young Women, 15303 Dallas Parkway, Suite 999, Addison, TX 75001, www.feyw.org.
  • Last Edited: 15 Oct 2012