Jack Thomas’ byline was in The Boston Globe for as long as I’d been a reader — an era that stretches back to the 1970s. His death, at 83, did not come as a surprise, not after he wrote an eloquent and moving piece in July 2021 upon learning he had a terminal illness. Still, it marked a sad milestone in Boston’s media history.
In his obituary of Thomas, Bryan Marquard leads not with Thomas’ meditation on death but with a much older story. Thomas, Marquard tells us, “went undercover for a week in 1972 to live in a cell at Boston’s Deer Island House of Correction, where he wrote about the hellish squalor in which convicts were consigned to live.” Marquard also quotes this great line from Thomas’ story: “The inmates had underestimated the situation.”
Thomas had the sort of decades-long Globe career that was common at one time but that has become increasingly rare. By his own telling, he covered the police, the Statehouse and Washington and held jobs as an editorial writer, a television critic a feature writer and as the Globe’s ombudsman — that is, the in-house watchdog and critic, a position that was once common but that few news organizations have anymore.
If you’d like to read more about Thomas but don’t have a Globe subscription, the obituary at Legacy.com is well worth your time. I should also note that Thomas attended Northeastern before leaving to join the Marine Corps Reserve, and that he was a founder of the Tom Winship Scholarship Fund at Northeastern. His voice will be missed.