Southwest Florida is mourning the loss of a community activist.
Monday, Anthony Thomas Jr. died of cancer in the hospital. He had been receiving treatment there for the past few months and even worked in his hospital bed until his death.
Thomas was someone who didn’t need a council seat to make his voice heard in the City of Fort Myers. He made sure his voice and the voices he represented in the city were heard.
“You don’t find too many minorities that’s young and that’s involved in politics,” said Larry Wilcoxson, the senior advisor to Congressman Byron Donalds.
Wilcoxson met Thomas more than a decade ago, who was a candidate for the Florida House of Representatives at the time, so Thomas gave him a call.
“This guy loved the city of Fort Myers,” Wilcoxson said. “You couldn’t tell him Fort Myers wasn’t the best city in America.”
Thomas’ hometown was his passion, especially the Dunbar community.
Thomas pushed for the city to clean up the toxic sludge site on South Street. He became the platform for community whistle blowers, being the voice to expose police misconduct and question spending.
Thomas also stood with the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, fighting to give convicted felons their voting rights back.
He didn’t let cancer take the fight out of him.
“Even in that last moment, right, that special, special time, he was thinking about other people,” said Neil Volz, the deputy director of FRRC. “He was thinking about his community. He was thinking about those people that don’t have a voice, and trying to figure out a way to make it better for them.”
Fort Myers City Council meetings have been quiet without Thomas’ presence, but his impact in the community will be felt for years to come.
One of the last things Thomas pushed for was an amendment to a Fort Myers City Charter that would ban housing discrimination against people with prior felony convictions.
“You can hear the pain in his voice,” Wilcoxson said. “But he said, ‘If I’m gonna die, I’m gonna die fighting,’ and he actually died fighting. That’s what he wanted to do.”