Leonard Thomas Dies; Was Radio Engineer, IEEE Fellow

Leonard Thomas is dead.
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Leonard Thomas is dead.

Leonard Thomas is dead.

The electrical engineer was 97, according to an obituary in the Washington Post, which said his expertise in radio helped solve electronic interference problems for the U.S. military during World War II. He died in Washington last week.

Thomas, who was born in Alabama, found a job during the Depression repairing Philco radios, then worked on installing radios in automobiles. He went to work at Birmingham station WAPI as an operator. In 1939, he moved to Washington to work as an engineer with CBS station WJSV. “He was the engineer for radio appearances of a number of prominent people, including singer Kate Smith and talk-show host Arthur Godfrey,” the Post reported, adding that Thomas would play a record on those days when Godfrey was late to work in the morning.

He worked as a radio engineer with the Bureau of Ships in the Navy, specializing in transmitter and receiver interference problems. “He developed technology to reduce and eliminate electronic interference in Defense Department equipment, which included small boats. By solving communications problems that the craft were having, Mr. Thomas contributed to the success of vital PT boat landings in North Africa.”

His suggestions, the Post reported, were instrumental in construction of an interference-free radar system for the military, and he helped write standards for communications devices. He was credited with realizing that interference problems in the White House radio room came from fluorescent lighting in the kitchen.

He was the first U.S. representative to the International Special Committee on Radio Interference; he worked at the Defense Department at the Electromagnetic Compatibility Analysis Center, and after retirement worked as a consulting engineer. He was active with the Electromagnetic Compatibility Society of the IEEE and was elected a Fellow with that organization, the Post reported.

He met his future wife Vida May Savage when she was a singer on a Birmingham radio program and he was the engineer.