In the newsroom, Thomas was her own woman
Several decades ago, when Loydean Thomas was a reporter for the San Antonio Express-News, she kept a single stiletto-heeled woman’s shoe on her desk.
When a new writer inquired about it, Thomas grabbed the shoe, rose to her feet and clenched it in a threatening pose.
“I keep it around in case any editors get too big for their britches,” she said, or words to that effect.
In an era when the newsroom was largely dominated by men, Thomas thought for herself, stood her ground and suffered no fools.
“She was a fiesty broad, and I use that in the nicest way. She was one of my heroes,” recalled Julie Cooper, one of her editors at the Express-News.
“She knew her stuff and she wasn’t always going to report what the editor had in mind. She reported the truth,” she said.
Thomas, 87, died Oct. 11 of cancer, more than four years after suffering a debilitating stroke.
But to the end, even in hospice, she was her own woman, insisting on certain formalities with the staff.
“She made it clear — you could call her Loydean or Mrs. Thomas, but she wasn’t going for any of that ‘Honey’ or ‘Sweetie’ stuff,” recalled her eldest daughter Debby Gibian.
Born in San Angelo as an only child, Thomas was raised in an extended family of inlaws, more so after her father died when she was 14.
“She did not go to college. She never even graduated from high school. She got married at 16 to an older man,” Gibian said.
While her husband worked in production at various newspapers, ending up at the Express, Thomas raised their four kids.
“She was incredibly dedicated and really fun as a mom. She treated us like we had brains and talked to us about what she read,” recalled Gibian.
“My father was very traditional. He didn’t want her to work,” she added.
Despite this, Thomas, who had a love of thrift shops, flea markets and junk stores, began writing a weekly column for the Express in 1978 called “Tracking Treasures.”
In 1984 she became a full time feature writer, finding her true calling after her husband’s death.
“As a single woman, she blossomed into the person she was always meant to be,” her daughter said.
“She loved being a reporter. She loved the fast pace. She loved getting to know all the people she wrote about.”
Thomas was also a respected purveyor of office gossip, which became a critical skill when the Express-News changed ownership in 1993.
Susie Gonzalez, a friend and briefly her editor, recalled Thomas’s sense of humor and strength of personality.
“I think because she was widowed early, she kind of became a force for herself and her three daughters. That was her motivation: To conquer the world the best she knew how,” Gonzalez said.
She also remembered Thomas’s great pride of authorship.
“I realized right away I could not be heavy-handed with her. I’d call her over about some changes, and she’d say, “Whose byline is on that story? Those are my words, not yours,’” she said.
A young feature writer from those rowdier times recalled a lighter side to Thomas.
“She was nuts, at least with me. We partied up a ball. We were partners in all kinds of crime,” said John Jeter, who worked at the Express in the early 1980s.
“She taught me more about having fun and journalism than anyone I know,” he added.
After her retirement in 1997, Thomas worked as a freelancer for various publications, including The Southside Reporter, Country Lifestyle and San Antonio Woman.
A longtime friend, Jacque Crouse, also a reporter in that era, said Thomas was also a great teacher.
“She had a lot of guts. She taught me there are lines you don’t cross,” Crouse said.
“And she was a really smart person to talk to about life issues. She taught me about perservering under adverse conditions,” she added.
John MacCormack is a staff writer in the San Antonio and Bexar County area. Read him on our free site, mySA.com, and on our subscriber site, ExpressNews.com. | JMacCormack@express-news.net | Twitter: @JohnMacCormack