Dr. Billy Ray Thomas, D. Min. of Brandon, MS passed away at the age of 85 on Tuesday, May 16, 2023, at MD Anderson Cancer Center. He was a devoted husband, loving father, doting grandfather, and an inspiring spiritual influencer. He prayed for Sandra, all 4 children, 13 grandchildren, and 27 great grandchildren by name and in order every day. Billy was preceded in death by his parents, Fred and Irene Thomas and a great-grandson Ayden Ostrander.
On August 11, 1937, in Jackson, MS, Fred and Irene Thomas gave birth to a beautiful son, Billy Ray Thomas. He grew up with a strong sense of faith and a desire to serve others. While attending Griffith Memorial Church, at the age of 15, Billy gave all he knew of himself to all he knew of Jesus. Around this time God placed ministry in his head and heart.
Billy graduated from Central High School in 1955. In the summer of 1958, he served on the staff (waited on tables and cooked) at Ridgecrest Baptist Assembly in Asheville, NC. While leaving “The Nibble Nook” ice cream shop at Ridgecrest, he saw a beautiful girl coming toward him, holding her injured hand. Of course, he asked her if she needed help, and ended up taking her to the nurse’s station. Little did they know then that the young lady who’d burned her hand on a travel iron, would later become his wife and he would hold her hand until he let go and reached to hold the hands of Jesus. Sandra Weathersby and Billy were married on May 30, 1959. Just two weeks before Billy graduated from Mississippi College, he and Sandra would welcome their first child, Steve, into the world. Then, they went to Louisville, KY where he attended Southern Seminary for one year and worked as Coach and Activities Director at Kentucky State Children’s Home in Lyndon, KY. While in Louisville, Scott, their second child, was born. After his birth, the family of 4 returned to Jackson and as many would call it, “ran from the Lord.” Billy was a police officer for the Jackson Police Department and worked with New York Life Insurance Company before totally committing his life to Christ. Over the next several years, they welcomed Sharon, and then Susan.
He earned a Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry Degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary of New Orleans, LA. While attending NOBTS, he taught school at Prytania High School. Dr. Thomas served as a pastor in several churches, including Pine Grove Baptist Church, Oak Grove Baptist Church. While in Magee, MS he taught for Magee High School and Simpson Academy. God used him to launch one of the largest student revivals in the history of Mississippi churches. He also pastored Immanuel Baptist Church, Natchez, MS, Southern Hills Baptist Church, Natchez, MS, Fairview Baptist Church, West Monroe, LA, Emmanuel Baptist Church, Lafayette, LA, and Eastwood Baptist Church, Indianola, MS, where he touched countless lives and made a positive impact on the community. He preached for international audiences in stadiums from Dallas, Houston, Atlanta to Charlotte, NC. He was known for his kind and compassionate nature, his dedication to his congregation, and his unwavering faith in God. He served in many denominational leadership positions including Trustee for the Southern Baptist Convention Radio and Television Commission.
After fifty-three years in Pastoral Ministry, God directed Dr. Thomas to establish The Nursing Home Ministry, which equips volunteers to bring the hope of Christ to people who work and live-in eldercare communities.
Billy and Sandra were married for 64 years and had four children, Steve (Alicia) Thomas, Scott (Dacia) Thomas, Susan (Roger) Norris, and Sharon (Rob) Fisher, whom he adored. He also leaves behind his 13 grandchildren, Amber (Patrick) Ross, Nicole (Chris) Bentley, Scott (Carley) Thomas II, Magen (Ben) Rivers, Lauren (James) Norris, Tyler (Candler) Thomas, Amelia (Matt) McCoy, Daniel (Ashley) Ostrander, David (Karey) Ostrander, Sandra (Dustin) Ostrander, Devin (Ariana) Norris, Laurel Norris, and Joel Norris. He also had 27 great-grandchildren Damian, Landon, Ethan, Bowen, Scott III, Everett, Jane Kennedy, Molly, Nora, Annie, Jack, Emory, Ava, Katherine, Ruth, Noah, Everette, William, Michael, Everly Rae, McKenzie, Wyatt, Ayden (2006-2011), Andrea, Seraphim, Braylie, Sophie, Maddox, and Maxton.
Billy will be greatly missed by his family, friends, and all who knew him. His legacy will live on through his family, the countless lives he touched, and the positive impact he made on the world. Affectionately known as Billy, Deddy, Pawpaw, Brother Billy, Dr. Thomas, and Pastor.
Visitation will be Friday, May 19, 2023 from 6:00 -8:00pm, at Ott and Lee Funeral Home 1360 West Government St. Brandon, MS 39042. Visitation will be Saturday, May 20, 2023 from 12:00-2:00 pm and Funeral Service will be Saturday at 2:00 Pm at Brandon Baptist Church 100 Brandon Baptist Dr. Brandon, MS 39042.
Internment Service will follow the funeral at Parkway Memorial Park 1161 Highland Colony Pkwy. Rideland, MS 39157.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to The Nursing Home Ministry at 1490 West Government St. Suite 7-316 Brandon, MS 39042 or by their website at www.nhmhope.org.