FORT MYERS, Fla. — A well- known community activist, Anthony Thomas Jr., says he has a “fatal diagnosis” and is spending some time reflecting on his legacy.
He spoke with Fox 4’s Patrick Nolan by phone Friday night from his hospital room at Gulf Coast Medical Center in South Fort Myers.
Thomas Jr. told Nolan that he is “trying to get through it” but that he’s in a lot of pain.
He referred to his experience with oral and spinal cancer as “hell on earth” and said he is grateful he has “a lot of people praying for him.”
Thomas Jr. has become a fixture at Fort Myers City Hall over the years though his activism has not been limited to the city.
He has been advocating for single-member districts on the Lee County Commission and other local government boards as a way increase community representation.
“That’s what I want to spend the next couple of months doing,” Thomas Jr. said.
“I believe we can do this,” he said.
“This is our time and our moment now if we can work together.”
Thomas Jr. told Patrick he’s been visited by two former Fort Myers mayors, Bruce Grady and Randy Henderson, as well as the current mayor, Kevin Anderson.
“I don’t have long,” said Thomas Jr.
When Patrick asked him what he wants the community to know about his situation, Thomas Jr. said, “Life is precious.”
“You can be healthy one day and the next day your world is turned upside down,” said Thomas Jr. who is 38 years-old.
“It’s a very difficult thing,” he said.
“So many things have been running through my mind.”
“I’ve asked God, ‘Why.’”
Nolan said he noticed Thomas Jr’s voice was altered by his condition.
Thomas Jr. said he had undergone surgery is now paralyzed from the waist down.
He said he’s been in pain as the cancer has progressed, adding he’s been hospitalized in February.
Thomas Jr. acknowledged he might not be able to see all his goals accomplished in the near future.
He said seeing more integration in local government has been his long time goal.
“If I can help light a math to accomplish that, I know I did some good, he said.
But he also told Nolan he may have to “pass it on to someone else.”
He ticked off the accomplishments he’s supported and some might say, agitated for, in the community over the years – from the first Black Lee county school board member to now working with the region’s first Black Congressman.
Thomas Jr. spoke with Nolan for about 30 minutes from his hospital bed.
When Nolan asked if he could visit him in the hospital, Thomas Jr. said, “Sure, I’ve always respected you.”
Despite the grave nature of the conversation, Thomas Jr. did find a moment of levity.
“And I’ve admired your haircuts over the years,” Thomas Jr. said with soft chuckle.
When Nolan asked him what he wants his legacy to be, Thomas Jr. responded, “I’ve been giving that a lot of thought.”
“When Anthony Thomas Jr. was born in Fort Myers in 1983 African Americans were only on City Council,” Thomas Jr. said.
“Now we have representation on the school board, the hospital board and even the mosquito control board.”
“If that integration continues, then I realize my work was not in vain.”
“That can be my legacy.”