Thomas S. Grilk, executive director of the Boston Athletic Association, said that whenever he hears the name John Thomas, “the height 7 feet 3¾ inches always comes to mind as the then stunning world record.
“He was on TV in the Olympics, and he competed against the Russians on ‘Wide World of Sports,’ ” Grilk said. “To us in that day, his name meant ‘excellence’ on the world stage, and it felt personal to us.”
In addition to his daughter Nikol, Mr. Thomas leaves two sons, John Jr. of Wareham and Danye of Brockton; two other daughters, Stephanie Finley of Medford and Eva of Sweden; 16 grandchildren; and a great-grandchild.
A going-home ceremony will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Temple Adventiste Church in Brockton.
In a 1984 interview with United Press International, Mr. Thomas recalled that when he cleared 7 feet indoors at the Millrose Games, “the place went absolutely crazy.”
“I was 17 years old, just a half year out of high school,” he said. “You can imagine the feeling I had in my stomach.”
“When I jumped 7 feet, I honestly thought that would be the highlight of my career. I never imagined things would happen the way they did.”
Bryan Marquard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.