Obituary for Robert Wilburn “Bob” Thomas

thomas robert wilburn

Robert Wilburn “Bob” Thomas (April 29, 2023) was born in Athens, Georgia on November 20, 1937. He leaves his son, Richard Gregory Thomas, Zebulon, NC; daughter and son-in-law, Coleen Thomas and Philip Gerow, Alexandria, VA; brother, John Morton Thomas, California; granddaughter, Emily Thomas, Cary, NC; sister-in-law, Jean Meier, Rochester, NY; special cousin, Buddy West and wife Charlotte, Cary, NC; cousins, Millie Lisenby and Tom Yeager; and many friends. He was preceded in death by his beloved wife of 56 years, Betsey Thorne Thomas; parents, Bobbie Morton and E. Wilburn Thomas; and step father, E.H. Watson.

Bob referred to himself as a media professional, working in TV, radio and print. He began his career producing radio and tv shows for WGN radio and TV, Chicago. He was executive producer at WCNY-TV, Syracuse, NY for several years. He designed, oversaw construction and managed radio stations in Hammondsport, NY, St. Louis, MO, and Sioux City, Iowa, and oversaw funding and assistance to local public radio and TV stations nationwide for the Corp. for Public Broadcasting in Washington, D.C.

Bob was cable administrator for Prince Georges County, MD, and Raleigh, NC, before owning and operating WBLB radio in Pulaski, VA, with Betsey. He served as News and Public Affairs Director at Radford radio stations WRIQ and WRAD, and was for several years Radford Bureau Chief for the daily Southwest Times newspaper, later also providing local stories and photos for the Radford News Journal, Roanoke Times New River Valley, and PC Patriot.

He taught advertising at Radford University; briefly ran a local one-man ad agency, volunteered with the NRV United Way, and retired to continue his media activities for various area public service organizations. He co-founded the Radford Memorial Day Service and chaired its initial 21 annual events and EmCeed the city’s Fourth of July event for several years. He served on the Board of Directors for Radford Fairlawn Daily Bread and Meals on Wheels. He was honored for various projects by the city, the Chamber of Commerce, Main Street Radford and others.

He thanks his Church, Central United Methodist, Radford, and its members for support during Betsey’s final days and his life thereafter. Special gratitude goes to friends Garnie Dishon, Tobbie Allen, Tommy Meredith, Eddie Crews, and former CUMC pastors Dale Gilbert and Don Shelor, among many others. His move to his final home at Ridgewood Senior Apartments was supported by several at CUMC, especially by friend Gayle Miller.

At Bob’s request, there will be no service and he will be cremated. Gifts may be made to CUMC, PO Box 611, Radford, VA, 24143, or to Radford Fairlawn Daily Bread, PO Box 3323, Radford, VA, 24143.

The Thomas family is in the care of Mullins Funeral Home & Crematory in Radford.