On Saturday February 3rd, 2024, the world suddenly became less interesting when Thomas Lewis Doughton IV, aged 75 years, died. Thomas, known affectionately by his family as Tommy (Uncle Tommy), was born on June 21, 1948, to Alice Maria (Bates) Doughton (later Ward) and Thomas Lewis (Dotten) Doughton in Worcester, MA.
Tommy will be deeply missed by his sisters Marsha Dinkins of Moreno Valley, CA, Janice Johnson and husband Jerome of Brunswick, GA; Patricia Hudson and husband Thomas of Worcester, MA; Arries Gray and husband Curtis of Worcester, MA; and Deirdre Dodson of Grafton, MA; his brothers Gordon Ward and wife Rosemarie of Worcester, MA, James Ward, Jr. and wife Deborah of Las Vegas, NV and Jeffrey Ward of Worcester, MA. He is also survived by many nieces, nephews, grandnieces, grandnephews, and great grandnephews, all of whom were touched by his warmth and wisdom.
Thomas was a Native American Indian of African and Irish heritage. He was Grandson of Carl “Chief Sun Cloud” Oscar Bates and Gladys (Hennessey) Bates. His roots in the Worcester area ran deep. During his lifetime he traced his ancestry back to the 1700’s. His great-great-great grandfather Thomas Hazard was a soldier in the American Revolutionary War.
A graduate of Cushings Academy, Tommy continued his pursuit of education at Columbia University and the Université Paris 1Panthéon- Sorbonne. Later he joined the faculty at the College of the Holy Cross, cultivating his expertise in the Holocaust, comparative genocide, Native American Studies with a concentration in the history and culture of Nipmuc Indians, and African American history. As "Professor Doughton", Tommy spent the last 24 years of his life as an educator and mentor, imparting his wisdom and conducting groundbreaking research. He was a tremendous writer, co-editing books like “From Bondage to Belonging: The Worcester Slave Narratives” and contributing chapters telling the stories of “Unseen Neighbors: Native Americans of Central Massachusetts,” to broader texts. Documents demonstrating the breadth of his knowledge and meticulous research are easily found. Countless spaces throughout the city of Worcester and around the world were his classrooms. All who witnessed him speak were his students.
Professor Doughton's impact extended far beyond academia. As a native of Worcester and a dedicated community member, he played a pivotal role in advocating for LGBTQ+ rights and social justice. His activism dates to his time at Columbia College as a member of the Student Homophile league- the first gay student organization in the United States. In 1973 alongside Robert Stanyon, Thomas organized Worcester’s first gay political action and liberation group (WGU), drawing a powerful parallel to contemporary black civil rights movements fighting for equal rights and equal protection under the law.
Tommy’s activism continued throughout his lifetime. He actively collaborated with and contributed to countless community groups, boards, commissions, and initiatives. He was well known and respected among colleagues at the American Antiquarian Society, Worcester Historical Museum, and Worcester Branch of the NAACP. He contributed greatly to the recording of the history of the Laurel Clayton community through the Laurel Clayton Project and assisted with the establishment of Worcester’s Black History Trail.
Thomas believed that knowledge is power. His works have left an indelible print on our community, and we are better for it. His legacy lives on in the hearts and minds of countless people around the world and will inspire people for generations to come.
Calling hours are Monday February 19th, 9AM – 11AM with a service immediately following at Belmont AME Zion Church, Illinois Street, Worcester, MA 01610.
Services will be "live streamed" beginning at 10:45 a.m., and can be viewed by visiting www.mercadantefuneral.com, and selecting "live services".
In lieu of flowers, the family is asking for donations in honor of Tommy to be mailed payable to: Diana Lewis (Treasurer), 2151 Glenwood Drive, Apt. 305, Gastonia, NC 28054. Memo: East Side West Side Reunion.