Jerry Thornbery

Profile Updated: September 19, 2011
Jerry Thornbery
Residing In: Baltimore, MD USA
Spouse/Partner? Tell us how long: Carrie, for over four decades
Occupation: High School History Teacher, Gilman School
Children/Grandchildren? If so, birth year and location: Meredith, Baltimore
Reece, Chicago
Yes! Attending Reunion


What did you do right after high school?

1962-66 BA Ripon College
1966-67 MAT Emory University
1967-70 High School Teacher, East Atlanta High School
1970-77 Ph.D. University of Maryland, U.S. History
1979- High School Teacher, Gilman School

Have you had different careers?

Professional Student, 1970s
Awarded the Carrie Thornbery Scholarship throughout that decade

Fun or interesting "adventures" or one of the high points of your life.

One High Point: Doing a presentation with Julian Bond back in the 1990s when he welcomed the audience to the Julian and Jerry Show. I no longer tell that story to young teachers at Gilman for some of them have no clue as to who he is.

What do you do with your spare time? What are you passionate about?

Interests: Film, Recent American History, American Politics, and the Music of the 1950s and Early 1960s

Passions: Movie Theaters and Book Stores and Carrie Thornbery

I used to be passionate about dachshunds but Bodie (our fourth standard) has been a challenge.

Have you lived one of your dreams?

Yes. Running a ninth grade study hall for over thirty years.

Publications or recordings? Ex: books, articles, films, music.

Three articles--two from my dissertation about Black Atlanta after the Civil War and one about teaching history by using the Booker T. Washington Papers.


Assuming good health, I plan to teach for a few more years at Gilman School. My email address should continue to be

Jerry's Latest Interactions

Jerry Thornbery has left an In Memory comment for Profile.
Dec 08, 2020 at 10:03 PM

Note: This was originally posted in the Message Forum.

’62 Classmates                    December 6, 2020

I am sorry to  report that my lifelong friend Bob Wolf died last night.  He had been in a hospital for several days and died of Covid-19.  

After retiring from the Brookfield Fire Department, Bob and his wife Cindy moved several decades ago to Ferryville, a small Wisconsin town, located on the Mississippi River, between La Crosse and Prairie du Chien. It was a place where Bob could hunt and fish to his heart’s content.

Once a year our wives and I would gather for an annual dinner in La Crosse.  At one of those dinners Cindy Wolf looked at us and said “You guys are so different.  How did you ever become best friends?”  Good question.  Maybe because it was in Bob’s nature to be a friend and not ask questions.

Today, in the midst of my grief, I thought of the time Bob and I reconnected twelve years ago.  Brother Norton had called up our Wisconsin cottage number and said “let’s get together.”  My wife Carrie and I drove out to Ferryville in our Subaru with an Obama bumper sticker.  If you knew Bob, you would correctly surmise that it was unlikely he would ever be a dues paying member of the NAACP.  And yet, when I showed up in Ferryville, Bob did not comment about my choice of a political candidate.  Instead, he was delighted to see an old childhood friend and excited to show me his place and talk about his recent activities.  

Bob’s treatment of me on that visit was a good lesson for this at-times narrow-minded liberal. Longtime relationships, whether it be family or friends, should be more important than politics.  And at a time when we find our country so badly divided, perhaps we can take a lesson from Bob Wolf’s philosophy and put aside politics when we are dealing with people to whom we were (and are) close.

I would like to end this remembrance on the upbeat, so let me tell you a few Bob Wolf stories.

Back in 2008, when we pulled into Ferryville for the first time, Bob had told me to call him.  “You will never find my place unless I show you the way.”  But when we arrived, Carrie could not get reception on her cell phone.  I walked over to the nearest bar (Ferryville might be small but it certainly can support more than one tavern) and asked the female bartender if I could use their phone.  Viewing this creature from another planet with some suspicion, she asked whom I wanted to call.  “Bob Wolf.”  “Wolfey?  I have his number right here.  Let me dial it for you.”  And I suspect that this was not the only local barkeep who knew Bob Wolf’s phone number.

A high school story.  One time Bob and I were going to the WFB rec center after a basketball game.  We had to show a WFB ID to a woman that to this snot-nosed, often obnoxious teen looked like a stern Miss Prune Face.  As Bob was searching through his wallet, a condom popped out, right in front of this guardian of the rec center door.  Just like the Fonz, Bob calmly picked up the condom, showed the woman his ID,  and coolly walked into the rec center.  Over a half century later I was recounting with admiration  this incident to Norton.  “Had it been me, Bob, I would have been shitting bricks, would have run through the rec center wall, and would still be running today.” Bob look at me with a smile and said, “Let me tell you, Jerry.  I was shitting bricks.”  Gosh, maybe Norton was just as human as as the rest of us.

Last high school story.  Bob and I were distant friends with John Engler, class of 1961.  With John, as with many others, Bob had a nickname.  For Engler, it was Cubes.  So that was what some of us called him through high school.  A mutual friend once asked me how Bob came up with that nickname.  Fifty years later I asked Bob why he called John Engler “Cubes.”  Bob looked at me and asked, “Who’s John Engler?”  And I think that says a lot about Bob and how he felt about high school.  He enjoyed this time at the Bay but he had moved on.

 Please, friends of Bob Wolf,  do not email or phone Cindy Wolf right now.  She is busy with funeral arrangements and dealing with the shock of her life.  If interested, and you want to send something to Cindy about your memory of Bob, write her.  She would appreciate that.  Cindy Wolf, 56138 Boma Road, Ferryville, WI 54628

Sorry  to be so long winded.  Thanks for indulging me.

                    Jerry Thornbery

Jerry Thornbery has left an In Memory comment for Profile.
Aug 13, 2017 at 12:33 PM

The thoughtful eulogy by Dave Stearns (and the full obituary I assume that he provided) made me think of incidents that occurred over fifty years ago.  Unlike others who have contributed to this page, I was not a close classmate of Bob's, at best a friendly acquaintance, but even for someone like me, Bob Race left fond memories.  Three stand out.

I first met Bob in Jack Nagle's ninth-grade English class.  Sometime that winter Bob began to wear boots that somehow flew under the radar screen of the WFB dress-code enforcers.  "Where did you get those boots, Bob?" I asked.  "From Roy Rogers?"  Although I called him Roy Rogers Race for about a month, Bob never got angry.  In fact, somewhere in my very small collection of WFB mementoes is a post card that reads: "To Jerry. Best Wishes, Roy Rogers Race." Bob was a classmate who was exceptionally good natured and who never took himself too seriously.

A second memory is of one Friday night in my junior year (I think) when Bob rang our door bell.  My Dad answered.  There was Bob with a cigarette, waving it as if it were a firery sixth appendage to his hand.  "Oh, oh," I thought, "this is trouble."  But Bob had plenty of charm, and he charmed my Dad just as he did a lot of people he met.  As we were almost out the door my Dad called out, "Nice talking with you, Bob."

Dave Stearns writes about Bob and his interest in folk music.  I am sorry that I missed their performance at the senior talent show.  The few discussions I had with Bob about music, however, centered on country and bluegrass.  In his senior year he sometimes sat out in the family car, listening to some clear channel station out of Cincinnati or Wheeling, West Virginia.  Bob did mention to me that sometimes it got a little chilly, and sometimes he had to wrap himself up in a blanket, but he could only get that station and that kind of music in the driveway of his home.  Definitely Bob was into country before country became cool.

After high school, most of what I knew about Bob Race came from another '62 friend, Bob Wolf, who like Race, joined the Air Force and served as a fireman.  The two Bobs were into hunting and fishing and I would occasionally hear about their treks into the wilderness.  It was through Bob Wolf and I learned of Bob's fatal illness.

When we think back about our high school days we (or at least I do) sometimes romanticize the past and sometimes get lost in the fog of memory.  Nevertheless, one thing is crystal clear.  Bob Race was one of the good guys.  Kris Krabbe succinctly stated that on this site.  And in my book, that is high praise indeed.

                                                                                Jerry Thornbery, August 12, 2017