Oliver Thomas

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Oliver M. Thomas, Jr. (born February 10, 1957), is a Democratic politician from New Orleans. He served on the New Orleans City Council from 1994 to 2007. On August 13, 2007, Thomas resigned his council seat after pleading guilty to bribery charges.

Early life and family[edit]

Thomas was born in New Orleans's Lower Ninth Ward, the son of a laborer and a telephone operator. After graduating from Joseph S. Clark High School, he was able to go to college after receiving an athletic scholarship. In 1982, Thomas received a bachelor's degree in business studies from the College of Santa Fe, a liberal arts institution in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

After graduation, he spent several years on the East Coast working as an account executive for a travel company. He returned to New Orleans in 1985, where he worked as a substitute teacher and began volunteering in a number of political campaigns.[1]

He married Angelle (Laraque) Thomas, with whom he adopted a son and a daughter.

Political career[edit]

Thomas began his political career as a member of BOLD, a political organization based in New Orleans's Central City neighborhood. A protégé of BOLD leader and longtime city councilor Jim Singleton, Thomas was appointed a legislative aide to Singleton in 1986. He then worked as a capital projects manager for the city's Downtown Development District, and as a property manager for a firm in private industry.

Thomas was first elected to City Council in 1994, representing District B – a district which includes BOLD's home neighborhood of Central City as well as the Central Business District and parts of Mid-City and Uptown. He served as councilor for this district for two terms before being elected to an at-large seat in 2002. While on city council, Thomas developed a reputation as a capable, responsive elected official; he gained a high level of popularity among both black and white voters. His popularity was confirmed in both the elections of 2002 and 2006, when he was elected with a margin wide enough to avoid needing a runoff. He won with 88% of the vote in 2002 and was re-elected with 78% of the vote in 2006. There had been widespread speculation that Thomas would run for Mayor of New Orleans in 2010.

Bribery and resignation[edit]

On August 13, 2007, Thomas resigned his council seat and pleaded guilty to a federal bribery charge. In late 2001 and early 2002, Thomas took $15,000 in kickbacks from Stan "Pampy" Barre, a local businessman and associate of then-mayor Marc Morial. Barre owned a company which operated a number of French Quarter parking lots under contract with the city, and paid Thomas in order to ensure that the Morial-era contracts would be renewed under the incoming administration. Thomas agreed to Barre's terms, but also demanded and received one-third of the parking profits in kickbacks through one of his associates. On November 21, 2007, Thomas was sentenced to 37 months in federal prison for bribery.[2]

Thomas reported in January 2008 to the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary in Georgia. In June 2009, he was transferred to the low-security Federal Correctional Institution in Oakdale, Louisiana.[3] On March 30, 2010, Thomas was released from Oakdale and moved into a halfway house in the New Orleans neighborhood of Gentilly to serve the final few months of his sentence.[4] In August 2010, he was allowed to return to his home and serve the remainder of his sentence under home confinement. His sentence was officially completed on September 8, 2010, having been reduced for good behavior while he was incarcerated.[5]

Acting career[edit]

Not long after his release from prison, Thomas starred in Reflections: A Man and His Time, a biographical play co-written with Anthony Bean, about his political downfall and personal redemption.[6] Oliver Thomas played himself in multiple episodes in Season 2 of HBO's Treme,[7] set just before he was arrested for bribery in 2007.

Election history[edit]

Councilmember, District B, 1994

Threshold > 50%

First Ballot, February 5, 1994

Candidate Affiliation Support Outcome
Oliver Thomas Democratic 9467 (42%) Runoff
Renee Gill Pratt Democratic 8609 (38%) Runoff
Others 20% Defeated

Councilmember, District B, 1994

Threshold > 50%

Runoff, March 5, 1994

Candidate Affiliation Support Outcome
Oliver Thomas Democratic 13,964 (52%) Elected
Renee Gill Pratt Democratic 13,042 (48%) Defeated

Councilmember, District B, 1998

Threshold > 50%

First Ballot, February 7, 1998

Candidate Affiliation Support Outcome
Oliver Thomas Democratic 16,759 (90%) Elected
Diane Prunty-Williams Republican 1897 (10%) Defeated

At-Large Councilmember, 2002

Threshold >25% (two to be elected)

Candidate Affiliation Support Outcome
Oliver Thomas Democratic 84,346 (44%) Elected
Eddie Sapir Democratic 79,472 (41%) Elected
Others 15% Defeated

At-Large Councilmember, 2006

Threshold >25% (two to be elected)

Candidate Affiliation Support Outcome
Oliver Thomas Democratic 66,374 (39%) Elected
Jackie Clarkson Democratic 36,839 (22%) Runoff
Arnie Fielkow Democratic 31,092 (18%) Runoff
Others 20% Defeated


  1. ^ Russell, Gordon (2007-08-19). "Oliver Thomas remains more than a crook, many say". New Orleans Times-Picayune.
  2. ^ "Councilman resigns, offers apology". New Orleans Times-Picayune. 2007-08-14.
  3. ^ Maggi, Laura (June 25, 2009). "Former New Orleans City Councilman Oliver Thomas transferred to prison in Louisiana". Times-Picayune. New Orleans, LA. Retrieved 22 March 2018.
  4. ^ Donze, Frank (April 7, 2010). "Former New Orleans City Councilman Oliver Thomas moves to Gentilly halfway house". Times-Picayune. New Orleans, LA. Retrieved 22 March 2018.
  5. ^ "Oliver Thomas to generate drama once again". Times-Picayune. New Orleans, LA. September 11, 2010. Retrieved 22 March 2018.
  6. ^ Walker, Dave. "Oliver Thomas talks about playing Oliver Thomas on 'Treme'". Times-Picayune. Retrieved 29 May 2011.
  7. ^ "Oliver Thomas". www.imbd.com. 2018. Retrieved 22 March 2018.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Jim Singleton (D)
Councilmember, District B
Succeeded by
Renee Gill Pratt (D)
Preceded by
Jim Singleton (D)
At-Large Councilmember
Succeeded by
Michael Darnell (interim)