In Memory

Thomas S. Thornton

Thomas S. Thornton

It saddens me to report that our beloved classmate, Thomas Spruil Thornton, Jr. passed away February 21 2015 at age 71 at his home in Greensboro, NC.  after a long illness.  I refer you to the Winston Salem Journal obituary for 2/25/2015 for specifics, but I will briefly summarize it.  After high school, Tommy graduated from Duke University in 1966, then Wake Forest Law School.  The majority of his thirty years of law practice  was spent with the firm of Tuggle, Duggins, Meschan and Elrod.  Later, he practiced with Adams, Kleemeir, Hagan and Fouts. Thereafter, he developed a successful arbitration practice.  Tommy loved his family, including his wife Nikki with whom he was were married for 43 years until her death in 2012.  Tomy is survived by his son, Thomas Spruill Thornton, III and his wife Wendy and their two children, Ruby and Georgia; a daughter, Shelby Thornton Patrick and husband Chip and their two children, Charlotte, Harry and Kemsley; and siblings, Cal Ogburn, Molly Philo, and Elizabeth Thornton.

The funeral will be held on Saturday, February 28th, at 11 am at the First Presbyterian Church in Greensboro.  The family will receive friends in the Virginia Gilmer Room following the service.  In lieu of flowers, those who wish to make make memorials to the American Diabetes Association.  Online rembances to the family may be made to www.  For a more detailed  obituary, please look at the Winston Salem Journal for 2/25/2015.

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02/25/15 11:03 AM #1    

Danny T. Ferguson

Thornton, Jr., Thomas Spruill

Thornton, Jr., Thomas Spruill posted 11 hours ago February 25th, 2015



    GREENSBORO THOMAS SPRUILL THORNTON, JR, 71, OF Greensboro, passed away peacefully on Saturday, February 21, 2015 at his home following a long and prosperous life. He was born January 22, 1944 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, son of the late Thomas S. Thornton and Ruth H. Thornton Ogburn. After growing up in Winston-Salem and attending Reynolds High School, Tom continued his father's legacy by enrolling at Duke University. He graduated in 1966 from Duke University with a degree in English. He attended Wake Forest Law School where he met his future wife, Nicka Thornton, to whom he was married in 1967. Upon graduating from Wake Forest Law School in 1969. Tom and Nicka moved to Greensboro where he began his career as a Law Clerk to Chief Judge Edwin M. Stanley. Tom spent a majority of his thirty year career in private practice working with the then firm of Tuggle, Duggins, Meschan and Elrod before moving his practice to the Adams, Kleemeier, Hagan, & Fouts firm (now known as Nexsen Pruet). Tom loved the practice of law. He spent his career as a litigator focusing on the practice areas of Construction, Commercial, Business, and Bankruptcy law. The respect he earned from his peers allowed him to develop a successful arbitration practice during the later years of his career. Tom's client base ranged from local Greensboro based companies to international construction firms headquartered from North Carolina to New York. In addition to being devoted to his legal career, Tom loved his family. Tom and Nicka were married for 43 years before her death in July 2012. Together they raised three children in Greensboro. He worked diligently to provide opportunities and experiences for his wife and children. He took great pride in his family and all that they have accomplished and have become in life. Tom is survived by his son, Thomas Spruill Thornton, III, and his wife Wendy and their two children -- Ruby and Georgia of Birmingham, Alabama; daughter Shelby Thornton Patrick and her husband Chip and their two children -- Halsey and Thompson of Charlotte, North Carolina; and Michael Thompson Thornton and his wife Kay and their three children -- Charlotte, Harry, and Kemsley of Greensboro; and siblings Cal Ogburn, Molly Philo, and Elisabeth Thornton. When not working or spending time with family, Tom loved being surrounded by friends and enjoying his passion for Duke sports, gardening, and watching and playing tennis and golf. Tom loved playing host for social functions and gatherings of friends at his home, at Smith Mountain Lake, or at the beach. Tom also traveled with his tennis group and his golf group in their annual "fuzzy ball" tournament. He worked hard and played hard, leaving not in ounce left in his tank, while living his life to the fullest.Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday, February 28th, 2015 at First Presbyterian Church in Greensboro. The family will receive friends in the Virginia Gilmer Room following the service.In lieu of flowers, those who wish, may make memorials to: American Diabetes Association. Online remembrances to the family may be made to


09/05/20 04:25 PM #2    

Danny T. Ferguson

A thought about Tommy Thorton from perhaps 35 years ago came to mind.  Back then, Tommy lived in Greensboro where he practiced law.   One night during my single  years, I had a brand new date with a beautiful lady who I had hoped to impress.  I took her to a really nice restaurant in Greensboro across from old Ham's.   Now, at this point, I had not seen Tommy in twenty years.  This beautiful lady and I sat down in the  dining room of this high class restaurant and not long after that here comes the waiter with a bottle of  expensive wine.  As he  was uncorking it, I tried to explain that I had not ordered it.   The waiter pointed toward the  bar area and said that a man in the bar sent it out to you.  I  couldn't imagine who it could be, until I finally saw Tommy.  I don't know if the beatiful lady I was with was impressed, but I sure was.  I went into the bar and thanked him.  Things like this, you just never forget.  It was such a nice thing to do that even at this late date, I wanted my RJR classmates to know about it.   

09/05/20 08:20 PM #3    

Jimmy Morris

Hi Danny. Thanks for the great story about Tommy Thornton. Amazingly, we were talking about Tommy last night, here in Forest Grove, Oregon. We had many adventures with the remarkable "Mister T", including a dinner with Bob Greenway and "The Other Mister T - the Real One" in Atlantic City NJ at a heavyweight title fight during which we met the current resident of the White House. Not impressed. That was his "Marla" phase. That's a tale for another time.

But the story I want to share is one of zaniness and survival. We were visiting Tom and Nicka at their Smith Mountain Lake home one summer, probably about 35 years ago. Tommy loved to zoom around the lake on his jet ski, so he was happily zooming that fine sunny day. As a way to add a dramatic flourish to his arrival at the dock, where we were all standing and watching, Mister T decided to drive full speed toward the dock, then turn at the last second and come to a splashing broadside stop right next to the wooden pier. Everything went pretty well right up to the "stop" part. Unlike his automobiles, the jet ski did not stop; it just slid across the water and slammed into the dock sideways. THAT did stop it, but Tom kept right on zooming, off the jet ski, into the air, over the dock, and into the water on the other side, narrowly missing the pilings and the people, while setting a Guiness Record for longest flight after crashing a jet ski at Smith Mountain Lake.

Typically nonplussed, our Mister T simply swam over to the dock, climbed out of the water, and requested a beer. Looking back, I still can't believe it really happened.

Later that evening we all went in their "bigger" boat for dinner at a favorite lakeside restaurant a mile or so around the lake. When we arrived for dinner it was bright and sunny; when we left for home it was pitch dark and moonless. Diane and I couldn't see our hands in front of our faces, but Tommy replied to our concerns with his typical "No problem". Sure enough, after a terrifying hour-long boat ride in the darkness, defying certain death at every turn of the shore, we magically arrived at the Thornton dock. The landing was much more sedate this time, and we were safe at home. Just another day in the life of the legendary Mister T!

I sure do miss that guy...

09/05/20 08:22 PM #4    

Jimmy Morris

Hey Danny. I forgot the most important question: whatever happened with that beautiful lady with whom you drank Tom's wine at the fine restaurant in Greensboro? Matrimony?

Best wishes to you and the lady,


11/08/20 02:39 PM #5    

Danny T. Ferguson

Jimmy, I am not even sure who that beautiful lady was.  Suffice it to say I later married another beautiful lady and have lived happily ever after.   I know what you are thinking - ah, great answer, huh?   But it is true. 

Take care, Danny

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