The hero's name was Jefferson Thomas. He was 68 when he died of pancreatic cancer on Sunday.
He was a true American hero.
He was a hero because as a teenager, he was one of the Little Rock 9. One of the very brave teenagers who stood up to segregation. Stood up to racism. Stood up to hatred.
In 1957, he and eight other students required the National Guard to protect them as they did what so many students take for granted today: they showed up for high school. In those days, schools were segregated. "Separate but equal." Blacks legally barred from attending school with whites.
Mr. Thomas worked to change that.
It could not have been easy to have been on the front lines of the war to integrate schools. But Mr. Thomas and eight other high school students took a risk to take a stand for equality.
He was the almost namesake of another advocate of freedom, Thomas Jefferson, who wrote the Declaration of Independence and who was also a slaveholder in Virginia.
Frankly, Jefferson Thomas was the true advocate of freedom. A man who actually lived for freedom as if he really meant it. Who understood that color should not be a barrier to one of the most basic human rights.
Thomas Jefferson, the man who wrote the Declaration of Independence, was somehow able to justify the ownership of others. Justify the ownership of his own kin, actually.
As a student in high school, Jefferson Thomas acted in the spirit of American liberty, with the kind of bravery most people can't even imagine ever needing. He was a true American hero who made a difference in our nation. I appreciate his faith in the American principles of freedom and equality.